When I say to my ex-wife today, “Thanks for your patience,” I’m really saying, “Fuck you and your impatience.”
This week I started my new big job. A victory? Yes. A failure? Perhaps. But such a bellwether moment, when on the morning of first day at the new job, the ex-y sent me her recommendations on what type of insurance I should provide for the kids and how I should set the child support up on an automatic withdrawal. She even said, “Because it will be so much better for the kids, that way.” The crow in my mouth was hard to swallow as I thanked her for her support and advice. Of course…
When you are a parent you never quite get to part ways with the ex partner. Now we are co-parents. And everything we do can be couched in terms of how it best supports the kids. Except when it doesn’t. And the things that my ex-wife did to get me to this point (not the new job) are inexcusable. And yet, we have to let that pain and suffering flow right under the bridge of life, in the best interest of minimizing the ongoing animosity and friction between us.
But make no mistake. In the darkest moment of my single parent life so far, my ex-wife not only refused to give me some slack, she actually filed against me with the Attorney General of Texas. As I was struggling to find new work, and trying to keep my house around me and the kids, she struck her final blow. There’s not much else she can do. She’s done turned me over to the authorities for collection. And in that moment, I believe, she revealed the core of her anger. Only through a lot of work and self-reflection, I have come to understand that our marriage may have unraveled around the issue of money.
If she didn’t really want to go back to full-time work, she could prod, push, shame, and fight me back into the big corporate job, and she might be able to work a 20-hour flex schedule. Except we wanted to keep the nice house in the nice school district. And when the big job had spit me out with a 6-month severance, in stead of regrouping with me, she went on the offensive. She was determined and adamant about *my* next job. And she stayed focused on that issue for a year. Sure, she was retooling her ideas about what she wanted to do for a living, but if she could just shoehorn me back into a big job… Things would be so much easier. For her.
That’s not the way it went down. And in the end, when she made plans to divorce me, she also had to find gainful employment. It seemed easy once she had her plans in place. She got the new job, she met with an attorney, she made her *options* spreadsheet somewhere on her computer. We divorced.
But as we were both making our way in the world, as “co-parents” she turned much more pragmatic. It wasn’t about a relationship, or mutual support, it was simply business. And when I stumbled in my work, and I told her I would be late on a few payments, she took the harsh approach, much like she had when I was voicing my ideas about self-employment during my sabbatical. And when the complaining and anger didn’t motivate me back into a job (in either circumstance) she fired off her final weapon.
When we were married she chose to divorce me. When we were divorced she chose to file her anger by setting the office of the attorney general on me. And this ultimate anti-co-parenting action has lasting consequences. She’s removed the actual compassion from our relationship. It’s now just business. Perhaps that’s a gift as well. Perhaps that’s a more accurate representation of our core relationship anyway.
Her actions against me with the AG’s office stripped me of any options for keeping my house. I was forced to let it go. I had to withdraw my map and plan for the future, and I returned home, defeated, to my mothers. FK. I won’t ever forget it.
And some day in the future, when she finds herself in some dire straight, in some position of need, in the future, I will NOT do the same to her. I will have compassion and patience.
Here’s my closing statement.
You were my partner and mate for 15 years. I will always give you the benefit of the doubt. I will always err on the comfort and joy of our children over any animosity I have towards you. Now and in the future, I will remain calm and patient.
I want you to know, I am not thanking you for your patience today. As my income stream comes back online, I am slapping you with my gratefulness. When I say “Thank you for your patience,” today, I’m saying exactly the opposite. Fuck you for your lack of compassion and patience. And fuck you for putting your selfish needs above those of our children, or me.
I will never forgive you. Perhaps I will learn to forget.
The Off Parent
< back to The Hard Stuff posts
- This Is Going To Hurt – Divorce With Children
- Is Marriage a Cliché? How Mine Fell Apart Along Party Lines.
- What An Angry or Distant Divorced Parent Looks Like
- The Fk You That Keeps On Giving
- AG’s Office Round Two: Dead Beat Dad – 0, Bank $43,000
image: fuck this attitude, pierre honeyman, creative commons usage
True Confessions Of A Cheating Suburban Mom says, ” I am a 40-something woman near the end of my divorce, and I am the one who was unfaithful.” < thus started a popular post on DivorcedMoms.com and Huffington Post’s Divorce section. And just the title irritated me. Sensationalizing cheating seems like a bad idea, sure you might get massive hits and comments, but confessional divorce material needs to have a redeeming quality, if it’s just a tell-all, it’s more of a Hollywood Housewives, rather than material for growth and self-understanding.
Did I really need to read this post? Is this “suburban mom” going to give me some advice that will be helpful in my recovery from infidelity and divorce? Is there something educational or illuminating about this confessional, or is it more of a slowing-down-to-gawk-at-the-car-crash-moment? I’m not interested in the later, and I spend a lot of time trying to pull apart my own dysfunctional mistakes as I move forward as a single dad. But again, this headline and first sentence have me forming my response before I’ve heard her “True Confession.” Even that title starts us off on the wrong foot, with a sensational tabloid headline like that, how can this be an introspective or evolutionary post. I will pause here and read her post… Back in a minute… Please stand by…
“I didn’t consider divorce. What I hadn’t realized is that over time I grieved the end of my marriage while I was still in it. I lay awake in bed at night crying, wondering how it was ever going to get better. He was next to me in bed, never a word to me, never wrapped his arms around me, never asked what was wrong.” – ibid
“I threw myself into my children and work and ignored my own needs. I did this for a very long time and continued to put myself last on my own priority list.” – ibid
“A friendship with another man grew into something that was not tawdry sex, but a renewed sense of happiness and hope. It evolved over time and wasn’t based in lust, but conversation, appreciation and understanding.” – ibid
“If I had known what would happen, and was aware of myself enough to understand what it all meant, I would go back and end my marriage before any infidelity took place.” – ibid
She got it. Okay, I’m relieved the popularity was not based on some drive-by sensationalism. In fact, the author, keeps things very clean and honest. And if this were my ex-wife I would have to applaud her for digging in an figuring out how disconnected she had become from her marriage, herself, and finally waking up when another man showed her the respect and care she was starving for.
It’s true, when we marry we have not real idea what’s ahead. When we add children to the mix, all things are changed forever. We’ve got a completely different responsibility at that point. For me, my needs and dreams, took a back seat to supporting and loving my family (both wife and two kids). I was a committed and engaged father. And we experienced some of the moments of joy in our lives that were unimaginable before kids. That will never be lost.
The magic and mystery of your first child is like nothing you can imagine. I can’t begin to tell you what’s going to happen. You have to let it happen, you have to be open to the transformation to take place in your life. But if you dig in deep with your wife and new baby you will find… spirituality unlike anything church can provide. (I’ll leave the religious epiphanies out of this post.) And that awe changes everything you do, and for me, everything I then dreamed of and worked towards. I was transformed even as our son was in the womb being prepared for his journey into my hands at his birth.
The doctor let me catch him as he sprung forth into the light of our lives. AMAZING. I didn’t need to cut the cord, I was already blissed out. And the days and weeks after his arrival passed in a haze of love and bliss and reconstitution. I was blown apart by the arrival of my son. I was father, son, and holy ghost all in one second. And then I had a new mission in life. Be the dad I wanted. And be the father that would nurture and protect this little fella throughout his life.
And that’s not exactly the way it worked out. But that was the plan and the dream and motivation going into the efforts of having a second child. We, as a family, sailed on into the chaos of post 9-11 emotional and economic free fall. And we nested as a new family unit seeking protection and joy. It was a hard and dark time for everyone. And our blissful moments, while still sparkling and plentiful, were also punctuated with depression, stress, financial woes, and eventually relationship strain.
Somewhere in that morass of bliss and brokenness, my then-wife began having lunches with a young work colleague. She wasn’t telling me about these liaisons. And if I look back at how we began our courtship, they too started with lunches. And though I didn’t know it at the time, she was living with a man at the time we began lunching.
So lunching was a gateway thing. And something that she needed to not tell me about. Hmm.
When I was checking the shared computer one afternoon, there was an odd message in the open gmail account. As I was the IT-manager of the family, and this subject line looked like SPAM I clicked on it to delete it with the “filter this type of email” button. But the first sentence was not an offer for New Internet Cable, as I suspected from the subject line. It was a thinly veiled love letter from this young colleague.
To be fair, I don’t think my ex-wife ever slept with this young single male. But she was lunching and exchanging emails with him. As I sat, horrified, I read about the struggles of my marriage, my depression, and my difficulties finding work. These were issues that he was responding to in this email back to my wife. And at the end of the letter, the kicker. “Thanks for showing me the library. It was a great place to talk and get a free cup of coffee. I’m sure I’ll go there often. It was great to see you.”
Boom. I was shot dead at that very moment. The lunches, the sharing of our local library (books and coffee – a huge connection between my wife and myself) and the deep sharing about her husband’s issues. And here was this sympathetic young man, offering his support and future correspondence, as she needed it. And future lunches or coffees in the library down the street in our neighborhood.
I didn’t know how deep this cut me, at the moment. I was suffering through some depressive issues of my own, it’s true, but those hurts and issues should’ve been something my then-wife expressed to me. Or at least in therapy. But not to another man. Not over lunches. And NOT in our local library.
I still visit the library. It’s a wonderful place with coffee by donation, nice books, and comfy chairs. And still, somehow, the ache of that found email that caused our family great heartache and drama. We eventually worked through most of the issues in therapy. She apologized immediately and said she recognized how it could’ve been hurtful to me.
She never quite copped to the fact that it was an emotional infidelity. Or that her actions were an obvious exit from the relationship. And years later she chose to ask for the actual exit. I’m grateful we didn’t split back then, when our kids were 1 and 3. And while we had some wonderful times between then and when we finally split up, the patterns (hidden lunches with another man) were part of her DNA from before we met.
It always surprised me when the secret lunches would come up on random conversations. A comment on her Facebook page from her ex-husband for example. Maybe I should’ve been more diligent. Or more laid back. But the lunches when we started getting reacquainted were quite special and less-than-innocent. If I had known she was living with a man, I probably would’ve cut them off all together. But I didn’t and we continued until she asked me to a Dear John lunch. She said she needed to complete or commit to her relationship with another man before we went any further in our dates.
I always thanked her for that. It seemed honest and clean at the time. But what I didn’t know, was that she was living with him while she was lunching with me. I’m sorry, but that’s an infidelity any way you look at it. Unless she was willing to tell both of us, she was not being honest or giving us the ability to make our own decisions about the nature of our relationship.
The emotional infidelity is probably what signaled the demise of my marriage, but the behavior was evident at the beginning of the relationship. I just didn’t have the sense to ask more questions or probe into the depth of this “other man” relationship she mentioned as she was cutting things off with me. We’d had some lunches and one evening date where we kissed quite a bit.
I might have made a different decision at that point had I been given the truth.
The Off Parent
back to The Hard Stuff
- I Was a Happily Married Man, and Now I’m Not: Tiny Hints of Doom
- My Divorce: A Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory
- Waiting for the Other Person to Change
- Love, War, Divorce: Why I’m Not Fighting My Ex-Wife About Custody
- Divorce is Not About What’s Fair, Let’s Get That Straight
image: budapest dinner cruise, top budapest, creative commons usage
Can a man survive without a home? Without a job? Without his family? Divorce often feels like the end of your life. And, of course, it is the end of life as you have known it up to that time. Post-divorce life is very different for everyone. And some of the life-threatening blows, may become less severe as time goes along, as water under the bridge continues to flow.
The first death-blow for me was losing my house. Of course it was a lot more than a house. The house we created for our family was filled with our hopes and dreams. It was the physical manifestation of our plans as a couple with kids on the way. We bought the house for our future family. And everything we became in the years within the house was our family history BD. (before divorce) As a symbolic loss, a man’s house is very important. The money, the commitment, the work that went into buying and maintaining the house… it was the only home I knew for my family. Walking out, or being asked to leave, was the first life-threatening loss in a long series of future losses.
Can a man survive without a home? As a single dad with the Standard Possession Order it is possible to survive for a while without a home. For me, I was able to find shelter at my sister’s house. I was homeless but I had shelter. I was even able to have my kids on my weekends. And we made it work. But it was not easy.
A few of the intangibles you lose when you lose your house go beyond the material goods. Sure there are a lot of “things” that you lose, that you wouldn’t even know how to ask for, but there is so much more to the loss. For me I lost my neighborhood, full of green belts and parks, and home to the tennis club where I played three times a week. The dream that we had created was working for me. And now it was lost.
Can a man survive without a job?
The second death blow. This one is tougher. With today’s economy this struggle for solvency is much more difficult than I remember it ever being in the past. Of course, now I have an additional $1,500 a month in expenses, and that puts even more pressure on my employment. And, if I want to have a place to live, it requires a much higher salary base. As long as I have the BIG JOB I can have a place to live and pay my child support. But when things get even a bit tight, something will suffer.
As things went for me, I was lucky. In a few months of living with my sister, I got another BIG JOB and felt like I was off to the races of picking my life, as a man and father, back up. Of course, I want a home for my kids. And of course I want my ex-wife to be able to afford the home I left. I want them both. And I am willing to work to support both dreams. So off I went, on my new job and I immediately set out to buy a new home for myself and my kids. It was a right of passage. I needed to establish another home. I needed a place for my things again.
And things were good for a few months. I got my home, I got my kids in my new home. We swam at the nearby lake, we jumped on the new trampoline, we became a family, a single-dad family, once again.
But things changed, and my employer changed their business model and eliminated my position all together. And six months in, on my new mortgage, I was jobless again. And for a while I was able to make ends meet by cashing in my retirement funds, and my savings. And I landed some contracts and some project work. And I made my payments and my mortgage as best as I could. And for the next year and a half, things lurched along with some sacrifices and some drama, but for the most part I was able to say on top of the money situation.
And things changed again.As my primary contract changed my billable hours, I saw that I would be late paying my ex-wife on the child support. I contacted her to let her know what was going on. And we were okay for the first month. However things did not get better with my work. And the loss of hours was not immediately replaced.
It was in the second month of my delay that my ex-wife began threatening to turn it all over to the Attorney General’s office. I asked her to reconsider. She pressed. We devolved into angry exchanges over email. We were both sure that we were right.
In the end she did turn all of our financial details over to the AG’s office. She had some reason. She was doing the best she could for her family, I suppose, but it was very hard for me to reconcile her actions while continuing to cooperate on all the parenting tasks. We agreed that the money fight should not affect our parenting. And we did okay with that.
But when I lost my steady income, or it dropped to an amount lower than my survival rate, I did not have any backup funds, I had no safety net.
In the end, I was unable to replace the income loss from my main work contract. And I was unsuccessful at supplementing that income enough to get caught back up on my mortgage or my child support. And now with the AG’s office putting the credit screws on me, I was unable to refi or file for restructuring bankruptcy. I lost my house. Well, I got to sell my house, but it was not what I wanted.
So now, I’m homeless again. And I have this same choice to make. I can go for the BIG JOB and make enough money to have my own place and support their mom in keeping our old house. Or I can fight in the courts, for 50/50 parenting, what I wanted in the first place, and reduce my primary expenses by $1,5oo a month.
Today I am interviewing for the BIG JOB. And I am hopeful to return to full employment in the next few weeks. And I will begin making my child support payments as soon as that is possible. But today, I am without a home. I am without a job. And I am surviving on goodwill, guts, and hopefulness.
The Off Parent
< back to The Hard Stuff
- Waiting for the Other Person to Change
- Love, War, Divorce: Why I’m Not Fighting My Ex-Wife About Custody
- Divorce is Not About What’s Fair, Let’s Get That Straight
- Getting Angry, Reaching Forgiveness, and Moving On After Divorce
image: welcome, glassess eyes, creative commons usage
After divorce, struggling with identity and depression is common. This single dad has found strength by focusing on hopefulness and cultivating a joyfulness within himself.
It’s been over five years since I walked out of my family home and changed everyone’s life for ever. Sounds dramatic now, but when I was going through it, I was not sure what the rest of my life held. There were moments I could not tell you one good thing that was ahead for me. And I cratered for a bit, taking refuge at my sister’s house while I decided what I was going to do.
Now, looking back on it, the worst event I can recall in my personal history, I have somehow grown more resilient after having survived it. And I suppose my kids have also gained a bit of survival-in-the-face-of-the-storm strength. And today, even though I’m in a similar start over place, I am not afraid or unhappy. I have taken a tumble as the result of my own actions, my own over-optimism, and the hostile ex-y. I have landed here. Starting over again. And there is hope here. The horizon is bright.
And the evolution of The Off Parent has followed a similar trajectory. I have come from angry and vindictive to forgiveness and now letting go. And reaching this point offers some new opportunities. Rather than dealing with the Divorce I am thinking more about Dating and what another relationship might look like. Rather than writing vitriolic screed I’m leaning into love poems.
And I have learned a lot on this path. And even today, with a chest cold a fever, I can say I am happy. I have learned to take, even the catastrophic failure and flip it around into opportunity. And then somehow continue to see the hope in that opportunity. There really is a wide range of paths out of this moment of pause. And there is no reason to thrash. I will reemerge when the next job provides the means to support both myself and my kids. And until then I’m going to enjoy this moment to the fullest. I’m recommiting to tennis and fitness. I’m starting to sing songs again.
When you’re flat on your back in depression and failure what you learn is how to get back up. And inside that how is the hope that is self-generated and self-sustaining. Hope is the key. Without it the daily grind is brutal and even the smiling pictures of your children don’t lift you. But if you can imagine a single hopeful idea, cling to it, set it on fire and tend the hopefulness. You can find the energy again to reach out for what you need by building and nurturing the hopefulness in yourself.
In the five years I’ve shown my children a lot of emotional sides of myself. I’ve remained true to my promise of keeping all money issues and anger out of my relationship to them. The adult stuff needs to be handled outside their sphere. And I’ve shown them how to rebound with hope and energy time and again. In recent years, as my life has stabilized quite a bit, I have been able to not only show them, but instill in them this tendency towards optimism and hope. That’s my gift. Seeing them dealing with setbacks in their young lives with similar resilience has been a fine reward for both their mom and me.
The Off Parent
back to The Hard Stuff
- What I Need To Tell You: Take Heart. It Gets Better.
- Creative Parenting and the Gifts of Enthusiastic Participation
- A Moment of Zen With the Ex-Wife
- The Good Side of Divorce – Making Things Go Easier
image: father and daughter support, cc 2015 the author, creative commons usage
When it finally went down, when I was walking out of MY house for the last time, I felt a bit I was acting out the exit scene in The Jerk. “Just one more thing.” And with the closing of that door behind me everything changed. Suddenly anything I wanted I had to ask for. I left with a bag of clothes a few books and little else.
The exit had been requested months earlier, mid-March. But I refused to throw my entire family (mainly the kids who were 2 months from the finish of the school year) into chaos because my ex-y had built up the anger and resentment to finally ask for a divorce. I said no a number of times that week and a few times the next week. We had been living as roommates for months, we could do it for a few more months to deflect the trauma until the summer, when we all had more time to heal.
For this solidity I give thanks. I believe the experience for the kids was tempered as their mom and I worked through the details of custody and schedules.
When the moment came for me to actually acquiesce it was a Friday morning. My sleep had been getting more and more ragged. And I was losing my objectivity. So I agreed to leave it all behind and give her the dominion of the house. I didn’t really believe I was walking out for the last time, but I knew things would fundamentally be different from that moment on.
So now, months later, from the outside I have given the house to my ex-wife and kids. I realized at some point during the negotiations that I did not want to be in the “family home” alone. And I would be alone a lot more of the time than she was. And that was the DEAL. I could’ve gone for 50/50 time. I could’ve forced the sale of the house. But I gave the rights to the home and the 70/30 split of time to her.
And perhaps it is better for them to be with their mom more. Either way, that’s pretty much what I would’ve gotten had I gone before the courts and asked the judge. And what I got for the consolation was a chunk of retirement money that was going to be taxed at 30% the minute I needed to touch it for a down payment. But what I really got was a happier ex-y. I’m pretty sure neither of us would qualify for the house at this moment. I could have some bitterness that we got a cash out of a refi less than a month before she asked for a divorce. But perhaps this too was a gift. Without it economic times would’ve come much harder for my entire family.
The Off Parent
- The Divorce Library (reading list)
- Songs of Divorce (free listening library – youtube sourced songs)
- Laugh It Off (building a resource library of funny videos and other diversions)
- Facebook (follow us on Facebook and keep up with all the conversations)
- The 5 Love Languages (a book on love styles by Gary Chapman)
image: The Homecoming used via cc terms