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

Posts tagged “co-parenting

The Divorce Part You’ll Never Understand: Living Within the Compromise

OFF-swings

Yes, we got divorced. Yes, we got angry and bitter and had some tussles over child support and entitlement. And yes, I still have fond feelings for the mother of my children, in spite of all that we’ve been through. It’s not the same as wanting to be in a romantic relationship with her. No, that’s not it. That part was done before our marriage was done.

Were I still married to their mom we might work together more closely, to enforce and build healthier boundaries, better manners, more respect for other adults in their lives.

But the relationship, once you have kids, is not about what’s gone wrong between you, it’s suddenly about what can go right between you as you support your children. Together. The fall and slip of one parent equals a fall and slip of the entire family. We’re still a family, both emotionally and financially. The sooner you come to realize that after your divorce the better.

You Take What You Get

Whatever the “deal” was you struck with your ex-partner, that’s what you’re going to have to live with. Over time, you may both ask for flexibility and forgiveness in various aspects of the decree, but for the most part, you can always revert back to the “schedule” if things start getting too squirrelly.

So then, as a divorced dad, I had access to my kids 70% less of the time. That was a huge blow. From full-time to fractional-time. And that’s where the compromises begin.

  • I don’t always discipline my kids the way others might
  • I want to hear them more than I want to hear almost anything in the world
  • I adapt my goals and plans to make room for their ideas and agendas
  • I am looking for ways to connect and support them in everything they do, even when they are with their mother
  • I don’t raise certain issues with their mom, because I’d rather focus on my time with the kids, not arguing over some detail about health insurance billings
  • I give my kids the benefit of the doubt on almost everything
  • I assume that they are honest and good kids, and I give them leeway in managing their own time

Were I still married to their mom we might work together more closely, to enforce and build healthier boundaries, better manners, more respect for other adults in their lives. We might be more strict about things like picking up their clothes, letting us know of their weekend plans *before* the weekend. And we might have more collective influence and bargaining power over their decisions. But we aren’t and so we rely more on the attachment parenting ideals that we used when they were little.

I love my kids with all my heart and soul. I still love their mom, but primarily for the way she has navigated this divorce trip, and how she has never stopped putting them first as well. We are aligned in parenting. We’ve been aligned on most of those things since the earliest days. So our parenting discussions and negotiations are usually pretty easy.

Where things have always been hard is around money. When there’s not enough, on either side, the tension gets high and things get wacky. It was that way when we were married too, but today things have fallen into disrepair. I am happy to say, we’re working on it. Talking about it, at least.

Compromise

In the compromise that was my divorce, I opted to not fight. I decided to accept my dad role as it was outlined by the state of Texas and do my best within that structure. I miss my kids every day. And I know there is no getting back the time, the 70% of the time, that they are not with me.

I am so honored to have her in my life, and so honored with everyday that we are able to be parents together.

So as a single father I work really hard to make my time as authentic and honest as possible. At this age, (14 and 12) I can hope to have several real conversations with each of them over the course of “my weekend.” And then they are gone. The house, though wonderful, orderly, and clean, is less of a “home” without my kids.

And it’s within this compromise that I am also bringing in my new relationship, my fiancé. She’s not privy to all the kid bringing up that we did. She wasn’t part of the tenderness that has grown between me and my kids over their entire lifespans. And of course, her relationship to them is exclusively through me. She’s finding her way within this “new home” with us. It’s like we’re all dating again. Me and her and the kids. We’re having fun.

The other morning she was essential in getting me and my two kids off to school on-time, which happened to be very early. She packed lunches, made breakfast, and did all kinds of parently things. Later that evening she expressed how it had felt warm, and fun, and right.

Love First

I am so honored to have her in my life, and so honored with everyday that we are able to play at being parents together. She’s an amazing partner, and she shows me the light at the end of my single parenting tunnel to be the twin flames of LOVE and ACCEPTANCE. Fortunately for me and my kids, and even my ex-wife, her warm LOVE affects all of us.

Afterword: So while I unload and vent on this site from time to time, know that my intentions towards my kids are pure and my relationship between myself and my ex-wife may be in the “it’s complicated” setting for now, but we’re working on it. And that’s also why this site is anonymous.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

back to Single Parenting

Additional Posts

image from friend Darren Smith on Instagram, used by permission


The 5 Laws of Anger in Divorce and Co-Parenting

OFF-anger

Divorce is Hard, Why Make it Harder On Your Ex or Your Kids?

Always keep your kids smiles in mind when you think about striking out at your co-parent.

Sometimes, I admit, I’m an asshole. It happens. Sometimes I get frustrated with my ex-wife and I mouth off or email her a nastygram. I’m better now. I really don’t hold any ill will towards the woman, except when she does stupid shit. That really hits my fk you button. In general, I’d say I’m over the frustration and anger part of that relationship. I wish I could say I’m over it all together, but with kids… Well, there are always going to be flash points, even in the healthiest and friendliest of co-parenting relationships.

We can be sailing along, nice Summer and all, and boom she says something that can only be taken as passive aggressive. Or maybe it’s just plain offensive. Our recent exchange around scheduling and the AG’s office: What I Fail to Understand about my Ex Wife, for example. She does not trust me. She does not respect me. And she even does things to hurt me. It is fine to couch them as “for the kids” but it’s not about them. It can’t be. It has to be unresolved anger AT ME. Bummer.

You’ve got to process your anger at your ex. There is no way around it. Jumping into a new relationship without resolving your failed marriage is going to only make things worse. You are likely to repeat the same mistakes that led you to divorce in the first place. And you are going to cover up your unresolved anger by trying to transfer or sublimate it with a new relationship. It can’t work. And in my exy’s case, she’s been in her next relationship almost three years, it hasn’t changed her anger and attitude towards me.

If she had spent the time alone, working through the shit, rather than moving on, she might have resolved some of what fked us up in the first place. Of course, that’s none of my business, except that it keeps jumping up and biting me in the ass. What you’re looking for in your co-parenting relationship is a spirit of cooperation in everything. When the vindictive motivations are hidden as self-defense, or “in the best interest of the children” the angry person may feel clear and justified.

1st Law of Anger in Co-Parenting

Anger is usually a personal issue. Another person may “trigger” your anger, but if it persists, or if it causes you to act against your own best interests, your anger is actually hurting you. And your unresolved anger hurts everyone around you. Even when you’re happy, you’re not as happy as you could be. And you’ll have doubts when the volatile anger can flare up and wreck your day. That’s a personal issue.

Expressing your anger at your ex-partner, or using anger as some justification of your bad actions will never feel right. In fact, acting in anger will actually create more anger rather than dispel it.

2nd Law of Anger in Co-Parenting

Any action taken against your co-parent is about unresolved anger. If you were not angry you’d see that aggression against that person is also aggression against your children. When you strike a blow against your ex the repercussions are felt by your kids. Even if you keep good boundaries, as we do, they can feel the impact of your shitty moves.

3rd Law of Anger in Co-Parenting

Child support is an agreement and a contract between you and your co-parent. When they go though tough financial times, you don’t strike out at that. If you were still married you’d work together to make ends meet. If you are feeling entitled, and feel that filing your decree with the AG’s office is “justified” think again. You are acting out of the anger at your ex. You have lost all compassion for the former mate. You would never strike against a willing co-parent who is honest and open with their financial situation. If you do, please pause for a minute. Get some help. You’re anger at your co-parent is causing you to see them as the problem. Reason things out with another person, preferably a professional.

4th Law of Anger in Co-Parenting

The anger you shoot out from yourself, comes back to you 10-fold. I don’t believe in karma. I believe that living with anger, creates an angry life. Showing the angry life to your kids is not the lesson you’d prefer to give them. Discharge your anger however you need to do it (this blog was great for me), but quit firing poison darts at your co-parent. You are liable to hit one of your kids instead.

5th Law of Anger in Co-Parenting

When you are free from anger your happier life, post divorce, can begin.

Always keep your kids smiles in mind when you think about striking out at your co-parent. No matter how justified you feel, it’s really not about them. The anger should not be a legacy you pass on, and you should work to resolve it before moving into another relationship. Sure, romance and getting to know someone might distract you for a while, but eventually your old anger is going to flare up, even at your new partner.

Anger is a great motivator. Anger can dispel and counteract depression. Use it to your advantage. But expressing your anger at your ex-partner, or using anger as some justification of your bad actions will never feel right. In fact, acting in anger will actually create more anger rather than dispel it.

Take charge of your anger. Heal yourself. Move on as a happier, healthier person. It will be better for you and everyone around you.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

< back to The Hard Stuff posts

related posts:

image: i am angry, cc 2015 the author, creative commons usage


Back to the Beginning: Serenity with Your Coparent

OFF-blackdog2

 

Co-parenting is about accepting the other person for who they are, exactly as they are, and holding them in the best light you can.

As we walk through our individual lives we necessarily come in contact with a lot of other people. And the primary relationship with our significant other, is going to be the deepest journey of our life. Yes, we’ve got to figure out our own B.S. so we can self-regulate and learn to mind our own business. But in our primary, one-2-one, relationship we’ve also got to learn to love another person even when they are dealing with their own personal struggles.

The dark thoughts multiply and begin the pull downward even as the poor depressed person is acutely aware of what’s happening.

It’s hard not to tell others what you think. It’s double-hard not to tell your partner what you think, especially when you imagine you can see a better approach for them. But even in that deepest of emotional and physical relationships, you cannot really know, really see, what’s happening in the other person’s mind. You might think you know. But the right answer you imagine, the minor tweak you see that could make their lives so much easier, is a figment of your imagination.

It’s more than minding your own business. That’s an idealistic goal that is easier to imagine than to put into practice. The act of allowing your lover, partner, co-parent, to flounder and fall and struggle, is actually the deeper gift.

In my life I have struggled with periods of depression.

The first appearance of the black dog came while I was a freshman in high school, fourteen going on fifteen. I was “away” at prep school in New England, and while I should have been having the time of my life, I began to unravel a bit as the Winter came on with a vengeance and my natural exuberance began to falter under the dark days and extreme conditions. As November and my 15th birthday arrived, I was concerned that something was wrong with me.

I remember a few of the moments quite vividly. I was struggling with my first foreign language, Spanish. And something about my brain just felt off. I tried to study each night during the enforced study period from 7 – 9 pm, but I found myself staring at the pages rather than reading them. I sought advice from my advisor. She was even more clueless than I was about why a young seemingly normal teenage boy would struggle so much. Her advice was more like a form of scolding. Even though I had sought her out she used the opportunity to recant the rules and policies of study period, and maybe I was just goofing off more than I should. “Maybe you shouldn’t play music in the room when you’re trying to study.” That was her highest thought. It was a disastrous year.

Over the course of the next 15 years or so, I struggled a bit with the black dog, but for the most part I got better help, used various therapeutic remedies both chemical and verbal. It was a bit of a jagged line, but I’d say my line graph trended in the upward direction overall, between the collapses.

It turns out, depression is part physical and part mental. And according to Peter Kramer in Against Depression, the body begins adapting and changing physically as a result of the swings down into the pits of darkness. As a person experiences depression several times, the body begins to identify the early symptoms and essentially leans into the chemical pathways that cause the depression to strengthen and deepen. Depression becomes a learned coping mechanism in response to periods of great stress. And after those neural pathways are connected by the initial bouts of uber-sadness, they become more likely to get fired up and activated with stressful events.

And the dark thoughts multiply and begin the pull downward even as the poor depressed person is acutely aware of what’s happening. It’s a bit like a Hitchcock scene from Vertigo. You see the dark ground below, you begin to tremble and swoon with dizzying panic, and in an act of escape you actually jump towards the blackness.

The Black Dog Stops By Again

In my second major moment of fear and despair, the darkest moment of my life, I can remember the taste of the fear as it leached in and sucked the joy out of my heart. I was married with one son and another child in-the-oven, and I cannot begin to imagine the frightening experience my descent must’ve caused for my then-wife. And she’d had some experience of deep sadness in her life and in her family of origin, just like me. It’s part of what bound us together, this recognition and acceptance of our moodiness. It’s part of who I am.

In periods of great drama and stress you either split apart or you deepen your connection to your significant other.

This time, as an “adult,” the onset was more noticeable and pronounced. I never tried to hide what was happening even as I was trying to cling to the joy in my life as a metaphorical cliff edge. I sought out medical help. I sought out spiritual and mental help. I sought out my own inner work. I tried running as therapy. I tried focusing on the good in my life, the beautiful pregnant wife, and the amazing baby boy, but nothing could lift the filter of fear that had started forming between me and my experience of life.

It was in this time, as we struggled as a little family in crisis, that I became dependent on my wife for my own survival. I know this was an unfair burden to place on another individual, but I was unable to see the way forward without some form of counsel and daily encouragement. It was a dark time indeed.

We survived. I survived. The marriage survived. And over the next few years, filled with diapers and tears, I began to get my footing in the world of work and the optimism of life continued to grow in all of us. And just at this time, my wife experienced her own moment with the black dog. I was back, ready for bear, and again we persevered. We didn’t exactly thrive, but the joyful days outweighed the mournful ones, and we gave our kids the optimism-in-spite-of-the-moment, that they still rely on today.

Adaptation, Survival, and Change

In periods of great drama and stress you either split apart or you deepen your connection to your significant other. And maybe the deeper story in our case, was a little of both. In my “video camera” retelling of the story I would color things with a slightly rose-colored lens. I might say, “We went through it, we survived, we’re stronger than ever and ready for what’s next.”

I can say that I had no idea what my then-wife struggled with during my dark times or her dark times. What I knew was that I had another person in the storm with me, holding my hand.

My then-wife’s retelling would vary in one significant way. “We went through it, it was hard, we’re stronger now as individuals, and I think my happiness will return outside the marriage rather than continuing in this way.” And in this moment, even 6+ years after the statement came out of her mouth, I cannot begin to imagine what was going on inside her during those final months of our marriage.

I had learned that I could only rely on my own best thinking, and take care of my own actions. And even as my then-wife was making choices that I didn’t agree with, I was ultimately accepting of her decision. I saw things and experienced things very differently. I imagined our future together *with* this additional strength. She saw our future ahead with this additional liability.

The darkness we had suffered and recovered from together had changed us in different ways. I wanted to return to the relationship with her as a the start of the next chapter. She wanted to set out and find a new partner for that next chapter. It would be absurd of me to characterize of attempt an understanding of her experience and her decisions.

We passed through several dark nights of the soul together. And as we go forward in our kid-connected lives we will still have moments where we think we know what would work better for the other person. It’s pretty clear, from this side of the divorce, that I had no clue what was happening in her mind during all of those ups and downs. Her actions for part of the experience were connective and supportive. At some point, after she grasped that she could not change me back into someone she loved, she decided to make plans to seek a different relationship.

I’d like to put a bow around this difficult story with some sort of statement of silver lining. Something like, “We’re better for it, we’re stronger because of it, we all have a more realistic view of life and dealing with setbacks and disappointments.” And while I can’t really say that, I can say that I had no idea what my then-wife struggled with during my dark times or her dark times. What I knew was that I had another person in the storm with me, holding my hand.

Even today, nearly 5 years after the divorce, I can’t project thoughts into her mind. I can imagine that I understand idea behind some of her actions, but it’s only my projection. I have no idea what goes on in her mind.  That’s okay, that’s not the idea. Co-parenting is about accepting the other person for who they are, exactly as they are, and holding them in the best light you can.

Occasionally I get mad and I don’t see my own part in the dynamic, but for the most part I have learned to mind *my* business, to pay attention to *my*actions and *my* words. That’s the best I can do, always. That’s all I can do.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

reference: Against Depression – Peter Kramer, M. D.

< back to The Hard Stuff posts

related posts:

image: with the wolves, sprinkle happiness, creative commons usage

The Serenity Prayer

God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.



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

OFF-doghouse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wait a minute.

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

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

Yes, but…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Two Laws of Divorce:

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

related posts:

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


Getting Angry, Reaching Forgiveness, and Moving On After Divorce

OFF-happy-sadIt’s been four years and counting since my divorce began. It was finalized in August, but by this time I had left the house for the last time. And while many things have remained the same, and the relationship with my ex is centered around the kids now, and not so much about our relationship, there are still things that can trigger a painful memory, or feeling of loss. Today was one of those times, when dropping the kids bags off at my old house, and seeing a book on the kitchen counter was enough to spark a bit of WTF?

The book, Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships, made me laugh at first. Then made me say, WTF? Then sort of made me feel bad for my ex who must be trying this time to form a healthy relationship with her 2+ year boyfriend. But the book sort of ticked me off. I’m not exactly sure why. But the basic reaction was, “YEAH, that’s a good one!”

But after the knee jerk jerkishness passed I was a bit saddened by the idea.

  1. That my ex would buy and read this book now, rather than when it could’ve had an impact on her marriage
  2. That my ex must be struggling with how to light up the passion with her bf
  3. She must be hopeful of marriage, and getting it right this time.
  4. And if she’d stayed IN this marriage, we would be working together to keep things passionate. As it was, I was the only one who seemed to think there was a problem.

How can I still be bitter about her decision to exit our marriage? Well, it’s easy when you see the impact it has had on our kids and their ideas of stability and family. Sure, perhaps their perspectives are now more in alignment with reality, things change, love fades, and even divorce can rearrange things for the better, eventually, but it’s gonna hurt real bad first.

Something had been lost. Through the toil and tear of our relationship and the struggle of life, we had (she had) begun to shut down her passion.

Okay, so that’s not a lot. And I’d have to say I am more grateful today that I am no longer in a passion-starved marriage. I am enjoying the first benefits of singlehood again, and feeling fairly strong about my capabilities as a lover, potential mate, and even husband again. IF that’s where we go. I am certainly also learning to question my need for that marriage. Today, I’m even asking questions about monogamy. I mean, what’s the point? Couldn’t we get a lot more energy and excitement by changing partners every once in a while?

Of course, that’s not the way it worked for me. That’s not the way I was wired. Today, I don’t know. But I was fully committed to my marriage, and this woman now reading a book called Passionate Marriage. I was never doubting my desire or steadfast resolve. However, the truth is, I was unhappy.

They say the sign of a codependant relationship is how powerfully you wait and work for the other person to change. It doesn’t work out. Some of the things I was beginning to howl about:

  • Lack of affection
  • Lack of touch of any kind
  • Lack of sex
  • Lack of financial partnership in the earning part of the business we had together

I learned, towards the end, when I withdrew my overbearing touch-love-joy energy from the relationship there was nothing left. There was zero energy coming back. And when the vacuum was created, what I hoped would happen, she would wake up to the loss of playful affection and come back with some energy and affection of her own, didn’t happen at all. All that happened was the void of any feeling in our marriage was so clear, that even though I fought FOR the marriage over the next several months, I also knew I would not settle for anything less than a rejuvenated and passionate wife.

I have to thank my ex-wife for the release. My own desires and unmet needs were causing me great pain. And that pain was probably not going to be met by her.

Something had been lost. Through the toil and tear of our relationship and the struggle of life, we had (she had) begun to shut down her passion. And while things in our relationship began with a lot of passion and touch and yes, sex, it was virtually a one-way street during the last year of our marriage. I was always asking, and always providing the way and the caress and the casual kisses. She was doing something else, had different priorities, was withdrawing emotionally from our marriage.

As a divorced and emotionally available single parent here are a few of the things I am finding again

  • Affection (If they don’t dig you, don’t do it. If they can’t hold you and comfort you, don’t do it.)
  • The Love Language of Touch (Sure you can be with someone of a different language, but it’s always going to be a compromise.)
  • Sex that is open and fun (Healthy sex is an amazing thing. A woman who knows what she likes is another level beyond that. A woman who can teach me some things, and WOW.)
  • Financial partnering doesn’t come into play for a while, but it might in the long-run
  • Pure friendship (Do you like being with the person? Do they engage your mind and your imagination?)
  • Comparing notes on the experience of single parenting
  • Desirability (There are women out there who find me attractive, who are not looking for rail-thin men in their 30’s or even 40’s. (I’m 51!)
  • Mature women are more emotionally available, and more sexually open, and birth control is a non-issue. (Woohoo!)

And with all those wonderful aspects of my new lease on life, I have to thank my ex-wife for the release. My own desires and unmet needs were causing me great pain. And that pain was probably not going to be met by her, unless she changed dramatically. And whatever caused her to change in the first place, was probably not a quick fix, and certainly not something a book or counseling session was going to alleviate.

And with that, today, I give thanks to my ex-wife for actually having the balls to ask for a divorce. I would’ve limped along limp for the next several years, maybe forever, imagining, “This is as good as it gets.”

Well, it’s not. Things do get better. And the process of forgiveness and release is a continuous one. You don’t wake up one day and you’re healed, done, finished with your ex-partner. If you have kids, that road is going to go on for a long time. And you will need the other parent from time to time and the best way to become a good co-parent is to heal yourself and move on. You will have good days, and fuck you days, but as long as you keep returning to the process of release and move on, you will continue up the spiral of healing that leads to your next life. The post-divorce life that holds great riches.

Good luck.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

back to The Hard Stuff

related posts:

resources:

image: happy, sad, mad, glad, kate ter haar, creative commons usage


What You Took Away; What I Get To Remember

OFF-father-daughter

The privilege of walking into my daughter’s room just now and giving her a hug and a kiss, is something I never thought I would lose, in my lifetime. But divorce changes all that. Sure, the relationship had been deteriorating for years or months, even if I’m not the one who asked for the divorce, or consulted a lawyer. BUT… You took my kids from me, effective immediately, no discussion. The minute you walk out of the marital home, you’re life changes forever.

Three summers ago I stepped out of MY house for the last time. It became, “Your mom’s house,” from then on. And I knew that I would not be good in the house alone, so I left it without fighting. The kids needed some security in this amazingly unsecure world we were thrusting on them. There was a cover story, “That Dad was sick and taking some time off at Aunt A’s house.” But it was done. There was no returning or repair for that summer of despair.

I don’t take a single moment with my kids for granted. I am transformed when they are around. I cook. I rouse. I wrestle.

The happy thing I have to report is this Summer, while trying and destabilizing at times, has been the best Summer yet. The closest I came to being depressed was struggling with a sore throat that took over a week to heal. And I was kind of ready for the down time. I’d been running and jumping pretty fast all summer.

And in our routine, Summer means I get my kids on Thursdays AND Fridays every week. (It helps the ex-y with the child care bills, and gives me an extra day of kid time.

I was chatting with another dad the other morning. We were waiting for our daughters to get inside the gym where they were counselors at a gymnastics camp. He said, “It doesn’t matter if they are off playing games, something about knowing they are in the house, is comforting.”

One of the most spiritual moments in my life was the first couple times I stood in my newborn child’s room and watched them sleep. Something about those moments affirm why we are here, and why we as adults keep working so hard to provide a better life, even when things get really hard. In those earliest parenting bedside prayer and answer sessions I felt, somehow, that the life I would provide for my kids would be less traumatic than my own.

And today I understand it more than ever. I don’t take a single moment with my kids for granted. I am transformed when they are around. I cook. I rouse. I wrestle. I take them on errands, I walk down to the lake and swim. I listen to their stories. I tell a few of my own. And while their mom is missing, it feels nearly complete. It’s the closeness and the joy I take in holding hands, or putting a hand on my son’s shoulder while he shows me his latest computer game creation.

I am Dad.

When my father walked out of the family home (as my mom tells it, she had given him an ultimatum about his drinking, and he chose the booze over us.) everything went to shit. Christmases suddenly became very sparse and un-festive. And he really withdrew further into drinking and eventually married a woman, a much younger woman, who liked to drink as much as he did. But the end result was my happy/unhappy home was dumped out and crushed and my father vanished into his own dark pit.

In the beginning moments of the divorce I did not know if is was possible to remain friendly. And even as we struggle a bit with money issues (now divorced) I know we are both doing the best we can.

We had visits. I went to dinner at his house once a week. But he was bitter. And his bitterness inflamed his drinking. And my mom and I had to develop a communication system about how I could call her to come get me when my dad was too drunk to drive. I remember sitting on the floor of his living room, watching Ba Ba Black Sheep together. He was remarried and the Mexican house keeper made the most amazing chopped up french fries for dinner.

And we tried talking about stuff. But he was heading towards oblivion most of the nights, and since he didn’t have to cook, it was easy for him to slip into the comfort of his pouring and adoring wife.

The last time I recall spending a Thursday evening over there, I was in 8th grade. He came home a bit early so we all decided to swim in their pool. I was thrilled he was going into the pool. It almost never happened.

And in the horseplay that seemed so rare and exciting my father grabbed me and started holding me under water. I’m sure he was euphoric with both drink and exercise, but he didn’t let go. And in a final effort to free myself I kicked him in the balls and swam away from him as he released me. I called my mom and went home without having dinner.

And that touch is something I know will never happen with my kids. I’m not a bitter divorcé. In fact, I’m framing myself as a single parent for now. And I do occasionally wrestle and horseplay with my son who enters 7th grade in a few days. And the thing I know, even in my loneliness and feelings of separation when they are gone, is that I am a great father. And I will continue to be a positive and loving force in their lives as long as I live.

I can see the benefits of my divorce from time to time too. I have time to restart my live performances as a musician. I am rarely exhausted. I am learning to cook. But that moment, every so often, that comes up when they are not under my roof, that wish to return to the quiet newborn’s room and know that things are going to be okay, I don’t forget or ignore that moment either. I am grateful my ex-y and I have done such a good job at pulling our marriage apart while remaining good co-parents.

In the beginning moments of the divorce I did not know if is was possible to remain friendly. And even as we struggle a bit with money issues (now divorced) I know we are both doing the best we can. And our children together are thriving, even with two homes.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

< back to The Hard Stuff pages

related posts:

resources:

image: i love my father as the stars, yvette, creative commons usage


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

Resources:

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


The Good Side of Divorce – Making Things Go Easier

my son's observations of me

Sometimes it takes a 3rd party to show you how good you’ve got it. This weekend a sitter asked my kids to write a simple page about why they like me. Above is my son’s observation. (I’ll share my daughter’s in a later post about fathers and daughters.) A few of the things I am grateful for in my divorce (see it’s not all rant and rave):

  1. We don’t fight (we didn’t, but we still don’t)
  2. We always put the kids first (if I can be flexible and help her, it’s best for the kids. If I get more kid time as a result, so much the better.)
  3. She’s a great mom and I try and recognize that as much as possible. (She’s not just the mother of my children, she’s someone who I still care about deeply. And she has a huge responsibility with the SOP in getting them to school, fed, loved, and cared for. And she rocks it. Regardless of how my anger often blows out on this blog, I don’t…Try not to…let any of it fly her way.)
  4. I have a lot of time to grow myself into a better dad, a better lover (eventually), and a more responsive and expressive human.
  5. My kids and I can get silly for hours at a time. (some of the policing she provided, might not have been necessary. Now we don’t have it. I’m the police, jester, and mediator, all in one.)
  6. When I have my kids I am ON 100%. (Dating and all the crap that goes with finding a new relationship, takes a back seat to my kids. Always. I’m glad we have a 6-month before introducing a GF or BF rule, but I haven’t even gotten close. I’m not looking for “almost’ or “good enough” this next time around. I’m looking for extraordinary.)
  7. She takes the best care of them she can. (I was always amazed at the kid-centered activities she could come up with. She’s better with the school activities. She’s much better with painting and crafts with friends… She’s got a ton of great gifts that she is giving to them as well.)

+++ No buts.

My anger is my own. My kids are a shared resource and responsibility. My ex-y is a wonderful human being who is doing her best in the world.

We’re done, but we’re never DONE. Like it or not, she’s in my life for the duration too. Her eventual BF-to-husband, is merely a matter of time. Dr. Marriage Divorce Counsellor said, “The deciding parent is often a lot more able and willing to move on. They’ve been moving on long before the actual divorce happens.”

How that still makes me sad I don’t know. But she moved on. And the more I support her “what’s next” the better it is going to be for my kids. (It might still hurt, but that’s part of growing into this new world order, and getting on with what is good for me too.)

This blog aside, I keep my shit to myself for the most part. Maybe too much when we were married, to the detriment of my own happiness. But I don’t have to do that now. My anger is my own. My kids are a shared resource and responsibility. My ex-y is a wonderful human being who is doing her best in the world. It is my hope that The Off Parent is more about me and my struggles, joy, and recovery than it is a bitch-fest about her. Sure I can go there. But in the real world, I leave as much of it HERE as possible.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

related posts:

resources:


I’m Getting a Divorce: Changing My Facebook Status

Going to Single on Facebook

The Facebook relationship status change today says it all. MY-NAME-HERE’s relationship status has changed from “married” to “it’s complicated.” How’s that for subtle? It’s actually less complicated for the change. We are merely transitioning. It’s not like I’m in another relationship or anything, but “single” really felt odd. So… Complicated, yes, that sounds about right.

And with those words the world of my little family changes forever. With the parting of the rings (the opposite of joining by rings) a wonderful mad rush of parenting and loving comes to a transforming moment. We now are joined in co-parenting, to support and uphold the other’s integrity for the sake of our two children.

This is all I have to say of the matter. We are no longer sad or bitter. We never really argued about much. And in this transformation we are doing it very cooperatively.

So I wish my co-parent well and look forward to still being there as DAD forever.

Friends, don’t fret this change, things are always changing, and we will continue to be the cool people we were before we married, and still so much richer for the journey.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

I'm Getting A Divorce - Watch Your Fingers

“Watch your fingers!”

Resources: