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

depression

The Off Parent – Series: love, kids, divorce, humor, release, sex

when you lose everything, love comes into focus

when you lose everything, love comes into focusLet’s take a new approach. Let’s go after local resident and legend Adrian Grenier and see if we can give him another successful show. Let’s feature Austin, SXSW, ACL, Barton Springs, and Formula 1, all as part of what gives this show gravitas. It’s going to be a must-see on HBO (our first choice), because the heart behind the show is writer and single dad advocate, John McElhenney. (Me.)

How would a tv show bring about real change in the family law that gives dads the old 70/30 shaft and asks us to accept that moms should be given the house, the money, and the kids? That’s the way it was in the ’50s. But the states don’t want to give up the gravy train of child support collections. That’s what makes up 80% of most Attorney General’s budgets. And it’s paid for by the government. The states are incentivized to assign child support to one of the parents and then they make their money based on the “money” they have under management.

If you would like to be an early script reviewer or a pilot test group member, please reach out to me via email here: john.mcelhenney (at) gmail (dot) com.

Enjoy. Blessings.

 


how to let you go (a poem)

leaving her

leaving her

how long will i look for a face
among the throng
roaming the whole foods beer section
and notice
an absence
missing in action
gone like yesterday
there is no metaphor that fits
and no messages coming back
too busy
chaos
still not one thing i can do about it
keep moving up and away
allow ‘if onlys’ to recede
and this ache in my chest
to inherit new meaning
no longer missing
but missing
big love
i knew once

4-6-22


Your Contempt for Me After the Divorce is Hurting All of Us

OFF-maidamerica

There were two minor events that happened in the first weeks of my relationship to the woman who became my wife and mother of my two outstanding kids.

About two years into the divorce, and a year after the full payments are in force, I hit a rough patch in my employment.

ONE: After we had begun our committed relationship, she got in the car one afternoon and said, “I’ve just gotten a new prescription for birth control pills.” EXCITEMENT PLUS. Woot!

TWO: She got in the car a few weeks later and asked me why I was upset. I told her that I had left $150 cash in the glove box of the rental car. I had called and, duh, they didn’t have the money. Her response was immediate. “Well, at least you are rich enough that you don’t need the money.” BOOM.

It not only hurt, but it also stung me quite deeply. I recoiled and had to ask her what she meant. She didn’t do a very good job of explaining how $150 to her would’ve been a huge deal, but to me, it was little more than an inconvenience.

That’s how she saw me. MONEY. Even early on in our relationship. MONEY. I’m just now getting clear on this. As she is still grilling, hammering, and looking for “enforcement” from the Attorney General’s Office about MONEY.

We got over the early yelp I gave out at her contempt for my slightly more affluent upbringing. And we moved along down the relationship road until she moved in with me. Into the house I owned. She never mentioned the money again, but now I can see, with 20/20 eyes, that it was much more important to her than I realized.

When she got pregnant, we made plans to move into a house, rather than my condo. So the kids would have a yard. So we could begin building our nest. The money for the down payment came from my family. And we bought a nice little house in a nice middle-class neighborhood. We probably bought about 3 years too early, because a tiny baby doesn’t really need his own room. But we were young, in love, and ambitious.

Fast forward the tape 10 years into the future and we’re getting a divorce. Suddenly my money is her money, the house that was made possible by my inheritance, and my owned condo was all we really had between us. And the breakdown of the finances left us on unequal footing. She got the house, I got some relief from the $2,400 a month child support and insurance payments.

When she didn’t get her money after two months and 27 days, she filed the whole thing with the Attorney General’s office.

About two years into the divorce, and a year after the full payments are in force, I hit a rough patch in my employment. We lose a client. I lose 50% of my income. I tell her immediately that I’m going to be a little late on the child support. She throws a fit.

Now, to slow things down a bit, let’s examine the situation.

I was paying $2,400 per month in child support and insurance. She was living in a house (basically covered by my child support payments) and only had utilities, food, and clothing to provide for the kids. She had a steady job. Had we still been together, we would’ve worked together to survive the lean months and made up the slack when I got another job.

As divorced parents, she was furious at me. She wanted her money. She refused to talk to me about the coming school year and parenting stuff. Her response to every request from me was, “When can I expect my money.” Seriously, it was like a bad cartoon.

Well, when she didn’t get her money after two months and 27 days, she filed the whole thing with the Attorney General’s office. If she couldn’t make me pay her what she was entitled to, maybe the lawyers and police could.

Now, even two years after the AG’s office has driven my credit into the dirt, and really gained nothing for her, she still believes there is a benefit to keeping them in the relationship between us.

Why?

I’ll let her tell you. From an email a month ago.

A fact it would be weird for me to ignore is that involvement of the AG corresponds with XX and XY receiving more support than they did for the year /18 months before the AG was involved. It’s our job as parents to represent the interest of J and C and them having more financial support is in their interest. Until  there is an alternate method to oversee the result of XX & XY receiving a percent of your income for their support, I’d be laying down my obligation to XX and XY if I said no thanks to the strategy that has coincided with you more consistently paying support.

And when I shared with her the payments coincided exactly with my employment. I have to have an income to pay you a portion of it.

What is it you are asking me to rely on to assure you voluntarily will pay? This isn’t a sarcastic question. Help me understand what has changed to make it so you’ll contribute a part of your income no matter your financial situation.

So that’s clear, right. The AG’s office means my contribution to my children’s welfare is compulsory rather than voluntary. What I think we’re seeing is her rationalizing the entire affair that has caused me to lose my house and several employment opportunities. She won’t ever say she’s sorry. But maybe she will eventually see the damage the AG’s involvement continues to have on her children’s lives and mine.

But that’s not likely to happen, now is it?

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

*this post was written April 2015

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Losing Everything in Divorce; Learning to Carry On

OFF-home

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.

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.

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 goes 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.

Today, I am without a home. I am without a job. And I am surviving on goodwill, guts, and hopefulness.

But things changed, and my employer changed their business model and eliminated my position altogether. 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.

Sincerely

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
Facebook  | Instagram | Pinterest |  @theoffparent

*written June 2014

As a certified life coach, I’ve been helping men and women find fulfilling relationships. If you’d like to chat for 30-minutes about your dating/relationship challenges, I always give the first 30-session away for free. LEARN ABOUT COACHING WITH JOHN. There are no obligations to continue. But I get excited every time I talk to someone new. I can offer new perspectives and experiences from my post-divorce dating journey. Most of all, I can offer hope.

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i want you to know you are loved (a poem)

phone screen matrix

phone screen matrix

i want you to know
you are loved
i want these words
typed not spoken
to resonate in your heart
as you voice them to yourself
i can’t touch you
i can’t see you
yet, here we are
having a short intimate conversation
and while we are here
i’d really like to leave you
with a smile
and a murmur of confidence
that the love in your life
is enough
that your light
brightens may souls
who hover around
even if you can’t see them
as we can’t see each other
yet here I am
still clicking here in my moment
and you following along in yours
blessings
and wordle bliss
pointed at your happiness

3-30-22


leaving us (a poem)

my best friend's dead father

my best friend's dead father

i believe in spirits of the dead
they don’t haunt me
but around me they swirl
if I take a moment to say hello
i might get an answer
a warm or cold feeling
as if…
and it’s not just my family
my mother and brother
who took their walk
across the rainbow bridge
are around and nodding their heads
it is more about the others
dads of high school buddies
or high school friends
from other high schools
there is something about them
that strikes me differently
their entire untold story
and collapse of my opportunity
to ask them about their memories
of all the wildness we put them through
when we were bent on driving
ourselves down the highway to hell
as fast as our first cars would take us
today is one of those days
lazy summer heat beginning to bloom
into the ides of march
putting a punch in the gut
about the return to offices
and cubicles
and managers with trust issues
i am not all here today
i am chatting with José
seeing his flamboyant and boyish smile
and how i wished for a dad that was involved
today i ask for a blessing
this is it
this moment is the beginning and the end
today is just another turn of el sol
and i am here to celebrate
cry
and remember
promises and hugs
that cannot go with them
where they have gone
and yet
i feel them
the minute i frame a question
“do you talk to her”
this psychic asked about my dead sister
“what do you mean?”
“just, ask her, she will answer.”

and that’s my spirituality
in a poem
prayer
words on a computer screen
as pink floyd croons on about
“where were you”
and here I am
here i be
all by myself
and surrounded by love

3-28-22


We Said, “Til Death Do Us Part” and You’re Not Dead Yet

OFF-heartcentered

2022 Refresh: This is not a recovery blog. I am not trying to teach you anything. I am venting about a divorce I did not want, I fought against, and I eventually resigned to accept. I’m still not happy about the divorce. I AM happy that I am divorced from the woman who had such a cynical mindset, but the method of her departure and her continual betrayals, well, those make me mad. I still love the mother of my children, I still hope for her life to be less stressful and happy. But I will never forgive her for the 1/3 dad role she awarded me as she went on to get everything she asked for while continuing to be angry, vindictive, and anti-co-parent.

To her, this blog stands as a testament to my fury. My pain. My howl into the night of the divorced parent. “Off Parent” is a term used to describe the parent who does not have the kids on a given weekend. Of course, “off” also contains a deeper nugget of meaning, that I intended to be pointed directly at my ex and also at myself, “off” from the devastation of the divorce. Here is a post that was found yesterday by an avid reader. I thought it was worthwhile to resurface it. Cheers.

+++

I’ve failed at marriage twice. I don’t want to fail at it again. So, do I get married, EVER, again?

Somedays you wish your ex was dead. Then you remember your kids and how sad they would be and the visitation schedule that does give you nights and days to your own devices and potential dating/relating/loving again. It would be a huge blow to everyone.

Of course, the divorce was a huge blow as well. And somedays you wonder, WTF? Why did we have to get divorced? If we were still joining our financial strengths and not paying for two houses… Okay, that ship has sailed, but there is research that says often the divorced couple looks back, five years later, and says, “No things are not better now that I’m divorced.” The permanent solution to the transient problems of marriage, money, parenting, sex, and compatible love languages, is not always the best choice.

On the other hand, if I had stayed in my marriage, if I had won the fight and she had agreed to work on some of “my” issues rather than just the crisis of the moment and my problems, well… Again, probably I’d still be in a sexless marriage with a woman who was unhappy most of the time.

How did she become so unhappy? Was I the cause of her depression and anger? I sure tried all the things I knew to make things better.

How did she become so unhappy? Was I the cause of her depression and anger? I sure tried all the things I knew to make things better. More money in the bank. Less complaining about sex. Fewer demands for physical closeness. Cleaner house. And nothing worked. We talked about it once (see: Are You Having Sex, Because I’m Not) and it didn’t really make things better. In fact, she was mad at me for buying the book on reawakening your marriage. It was as if I was accusing her of the problem. I wasn’t. I was trying to figure out OUR part in the loss of passion. I never did get an answer.

I mean, I got these answers:

  • I’m tired
  • There are too many chores
  • The kids are in the next room
  • Not until the dishes and laundry are done
  • You’re not asking me the right way
  • I’m tired at night after the kids go to sleep
  • I’m not a morning person
  • That’s not a very romantic proposition
  • No, I don’t want a massage
  • I don’t like naps in the afternoon on a weekend
  • I need to work
  • The lawn needs to be mowed

And after a while, I think anyone begins to get discouraged. And perhaps, to her, it felt like a war. Like an invasion of her privacy, even in my asking. But the feeling to me was of being put in some sort of glass box. I could see her. I could adore her. I could try to reach out to her, but it was often rejected soundly, and with anger. What’s there to be angry about? I mean, we’re in this together, right?

I remember reading some of David Deida’s work on the polarity between men and women. In his writing, he recommends that the man and woman really work to enhance their polarity. The man works to become more manly, more masculine, more of the romantic poet home from the war to ravage his beauty. The woman’s job is to become more vivacious, more sexy, more desirable. And the heightening of these roles brings up the heat and the chemistry for more passionate love-making, and even, spiritual sex. Ah, yes, how I wanted David to come to have a chat with us, and see if he could offer some advice.

One of the concepts that I really liked in his work was that of not settling for the tired and depressed housewife. No. I wanted and was okay in asking for my wife to be energetic and juicy-alive. She could work to return to the vixen I fell in love with. And if she did that, I would do my part to do even more chivalrous male shit, and keep the home fires burning. Again, that didn’t happen.

Dammit. I’m not happy about this. I wasn’t happy about it then, and there are still parts of it, that chap my hide. Why didn’t she listen when I said we need to work on our sex life? Why did she put up defensive shields around touch and closeness, as a rule?

So what makes a non-emotional person fall in love with an emotional one? What makes a passionate poetic man go bonkers for a woman who was more comfortable running profit/loss scenarios?

I was coming home to a battlefield rather than a home. And in the closing year of our marriage, it was worse than ever. And I began to squawk for my wife to come back. I kept asking for her to stop working on a Saturday, and go with me and the kids to the pool. I kept trying alternative ways of asking for closeness. But even the non-sexual closeness had become painful to her in some way.

Obviously, I can see now, she was already gone. She had been leaving the marriage long before she asked for the divorce. My attempts and requests for more more more, were no longer falling on a receptive heart. She had put up the defenses and was working to cover her options. When I did confront her about going to see an attorney, and she said she had. I didn’t ask how long she had been consulting about her divorce plans. And of course, it doesn’t really matter, because the intentional exit of her passionate feminine energy had been going on for a while. Maybe even longer than I can imagine.

So what makes a non-emotional person fall in love with an emotional one? What makes a passionate poetic man go bonkers for a woman who was more comfortable running profit/loss scenarios? Beauty, yes, but something else as well. There were certain strengths she had that I found attractive. There were business-like decisions and plans that she was an expert at. And in our parenting roles, she excelled in proposing the “plan.”

And she was beautiful. She still is beautiful. She is still my physical type. But she was not from my same planet. And her love language profile was almost opposite from mine. Where I craved touch as my single most powerful indicator of love, her priorities and passions were more piqued by “acts of service.” The “do something for me” love language. And I can see that now. How even a burnt out lightbulb to her was a failure on my part. Why did I not see it and change it without her having to ask me?

Her joke, a line from a book, I think, was, “Another in a long series of disappointments.”

I guess in the end that’s what broke her spirit. She had been disappointed too many times in my fulfillment of her love language preference. And she was ready to pack up and look for her fulfillment somewhere else.

Of course, I don’t ever REALLY wish she were dead. But in some ways, our disconnect was like a death for both of us. I just took a lot longer to catch up to how much pain I was in.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

*this post written June 2014

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image: paint brushed heart, PhotoSteve101, creative commons usage


just for a second (a poem)

breathe

breathe

walk outside right now
stop stop stop the rush
of this day and moment
and go breathe a cloud in
take a pause to collect
the pieces of your soul
scattered out along the rush
of this work
this adventure
this life

you know
there is no other chance
this is the big show
you should not be waiting
for some sign
if you are
this poem is the sign you were waiting for
don’t wait
go outside
stop driving so hard and fast
open yourself to the softness of an afternoon’s heat
to the smell of the cedar
even as it makes your eyes water
give space for god
or your higher power
to catch up with you
don’t hurry on
don’t interrupt
just listen to a few good deep breaths
IN
and
slowwwwly
OUT
pause
repeat

this break brought to you by war
nearby deaths
tornadoes touching down next door
and all that is sacred in our lives
but ignored
escaped through entertainment
missed with resentments and anger
this break
is the beginning
the opening
for your change to happen
now
right now

in this second
with each word of a poem
you are opening to the pause
the great pause
the slow inhale and exhale
the modern recovery act
i am only here as a friend
a lover
a colleague
in every interaction i hope to encourage
champion
and cheer
for your success
as we both learn to slow it all down
this work/life balance destination
and do it now
do it even if we don’t feel it
do it because it will take effect
more powerfully than any antidepressant
more than sex, or chocolate, or money
the pause
the connection with another person
may be the most two vital practices on the earth

with these words, these strokes of keys on a laptop
i am joining with you
calling for your moment of connection
with your inner voice
your breathing
and your tuning in and dropping out
of the furious pace of your world
please pause
please take the breaks you need
please celebrate those around you
at every moment
and know that i am with you
in this journey to aim our hearts
closer to the beloved
i am here
you are there
we
are
in this most sacred
now

3-23-2022


pulled under (a poem)

pulled under (a poem)

pulled under (a poem)

she pressed back towards the surface
the ghosts had released their hold on her legs
once more i was trying to rescue and restore
this is a dangerous mode for any man
and failure would mean death or something worse
loneliness again
loss
hopeless romantic suicide
there is no “fix you” in love
between lovers
we need balance
higher/lower is a trap
and a lie
we are together for a reason
and the lessons we learn
will be important
if we can quiet our own panic
and listen
just to hold
space
for the beloved

healing that comes from being in love
and holding the line between us
as a sacred bond
and agreement
this is how we love
without losing our own
minds

2-16-22


change of plans (a poem)

walking away from love

kissing her neck

i wanted her exactly as she appeared
i wanted a change
i asked
i prayed
love languaged
yelled
whispered
kissed
self-loved
inspired
lost
left
returned
left again
broke down
died
reanimated
to let go
one
more
dear heart

2-11-22


The Painful Business of Divorce

OFF-sadgirl

Divorce is big business. And fk that.

I’m not in the divorce business. I’m not a divorce counselor or coach. I’m kinda anti-divorce if you want to know the truth. But we all go through a divorce or two in our lives. If not you and your partner, than a friend or family member. It’s just how the modern world is.

If we could truly get our heads around “in the best interest of the children” we might be able to divorce in a friendly manner.

The other night, when picking my daughter and three of her friends up from a birthday party, I asked, “How many of you girls have divorced parents?” 100%. In our time, divorce is no longer the stigma it was when I was a kid. Today we plan things, we think about the kids first (at least I did) and we try our best not to damage them on the way out of our married life and into our divorced life. The exy and I did okay. I think I took the brunt of the swift kick to the ego, pocket-book, and time with my kids, but hey… I’m not trying to write a bitching post. I’ve done plenty of those.

No this post goes out to all the people involved in the business of divorce. The trolling for divorce attorneys. The coaches who are reposting and retweeting my articles to help their clients.

I’m just sick of the Divorce Business. Sick of it. It’s a necessary evil, I understand this, but does it have to be so sleazy? And sure, cooperative divorce ain’t for everyone, I get that. And I know there are high-conflict (usually coupled with high-wealth) divorces that require special handling. But if we were honest about divorce we’d all have a cooperative divorce. The problem is, things get messy. Divorce is emotional. And emotions can run hot and get you in a lot of trouble.

So we blabber, yell, and hurt to our attorneys, at $250 an hour (therapists are a lot cheaper) so that we can make the best deal. Again, I have a bitter taste in my mouth, and I apologize for my disdain, but my beef is with my ex-wife and not with the woman who advised her. My beef is with the woman who was paid to be our impartial divorce counselor and then told me to get with the program.

If we could truly get our heads around “in the best interest of the children” we might be able to divorce in a friendly manner. But it is often not about the children. How can a family that is democratic and fully shared be divided in a way as lopsided as the custodial/non-custodial parent?

Even when we attempted to do everything in a cooperative manner, we did not. Even when we agreed to a cooperative and fair divorce, she had other things on her mind.

Yes, my then-wife began to go after my parenting skills in the therapist’s office. She was convinced that she needed more time with the kids. She was certain that she could feed, shelter, and nurture them in a more consistent and “mothering” way. There was a fine line between the “interest of the children” and the interest of what she wanted. And according to the law in my state, she was entitled to get.

So even when we paid to be civil we were not. Even when we attempted to do everything in a cooperative manner, we did not. Even when we agreed to a cooperative and fair divorce, she had other things on her mind.

I don’t think she set out to screw me. But she had the jump on me by at least two months when she finally told me she wanted a divorce. She’d met with an attorney, and was no longer interested in our couple’s therapy. Her word was cynical. She no longer believed that any good would come from sticking it out with me. For the kids, or for herself, she saw the light at the end of our marriage as a way to happiness for herself.

She was wrong. Well, of course, I can’t say she was wrong about the marriage. On that front, she did me a favor. But she was wrong about the happiness. And she was only thinking of her happiness and not the happiness of our children, when she got a lawyer to consider her options. She was only thinking of herself at that point. She’d had enough of what I wasn’t giving her. She was done waiting for me to take care of something she could no longer ignore.

Unfortunately for me and the kids, I believe that thing was a sadness inside her that may not have an easy solution. That sadness that we both suffered from occasionally.

The dam burst in my dark heart and ice water began rushing up through my veins and I could hardly think after she spoke the betrayal.

Well, I chose to turn into the sadness and confront it. And from time to time, it got the better of me. I’ll admit that. And some of the times WE worked through together were unfathomable. We survived. We never quite made it back to thriving, but we supported and loved each other through some really tough blows on both sides.

But somewhere in the recoil and release of the hard years, she jumped out of the train and began looking for an escape path. For a while she didn’t tell me she wasn’t in the train any more. She was running along side the train, and I thought we were “good.” Or at least I thought we were okay. “Working on it.” Was how I would’ve framed it at the time. But she was way ahead of me on her exit trajectory. And the little lies, like why she no longer wanted to have sex. Or where she had been all afternoon when she wasn’t responding to my texts.

This is my howl into the dark night. Her change of heart derailed the train for all of us. And while we’ve done the best we can, and while I have to admit I am *much* happier in a new relationship, I still have sadness about how the trust between us was crushed with that single admission in couple’s therapy.

“Have you already been to see a lawyer,” I asked.

She was teary-eyed when she looked at the therapist and then me. “Yes.”

The dam burst in my dark heart and ice water began rushing up through my veins and I could hardly think after she spoke the betrayal.

Why hadn’t she brought the issues into therapy? How had she gone to an attorney before unpacking her grievances with me and our helper? Maybe the helper wasn’t helping enough. Maybe her father was passing her his sage advice. The man who married and divorced her mom twice. Maybe she was already in love with someone else.

Or maybe she just gave up on me.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

*this post was written August 2015

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The Whimsical Blowjob & Other Unexplainable Marital Ecstasies

I use the term blowjob interchangeably to apply to both sexes. And for me, the phrase, better to give than receive, actually fits. But it is also a sensuous desire that needs to flow both ways, for the full appreciation to be understood. Again, I’m out on an untested limb here, but I’m assuming a person is either “into” oral sex or they are not. Ideas like learning, or inexperienced, by the time one has passed out of their twenties… Well, I’m willing to bet, if the fascination isn’t there, the desire isn’t there either.

In my divorce recovery class (I participated in one session, and facilitated at a second session) the most amazing meeting was the night we get to ask the sex questions. And without breaking any confidentiality here, this was the big “ah ha” moment for me and many of the others in the group.

BIG REVEAL: Oral sex is not for everyone. Many people (both men and women) can “take it or leave it.”

I was stunned by this revelation  Having had an insatiable desire to see, explore, play with, and taste, the female vagina, I have not known a time since my late teens that I wasn’t willing, ready, and able to dive into a woman’s nether region with abandon and enthusiasm.

I did not have an example of her withdrawal into logic and reason. I was not aware of how her stress response was to go into “spreadsheet” mode and try to map out the “plan.”

I do understand that people express love in many different ways. And if we take the 5 Love Languages as a model, there are 4 of them that are not physical touch. But still, if the sexual act and sexual organs are not objects of mesmerizing awe and curiosity, I suppose, in my definition that person is not all that sensual. I mean, sex is a yes, in most people, but oral sex, I am understanding is an acquired taste. Or perhaps a learned and cultivated behavior.

In one of my two classes, the question of oral sex made the rounds as a polling question. “Oral sex, yes or no?” And the answers ranged from “not so much” to “essential” to what became known as my answer, “deal killer.”

I am a sensuous human. I find my way, my security, my thrill, and my comfort in physical intimacy. And the actual act of having sex is less important to me than being in-process in some form of physical connection with my significant other when we are in close proximity. If I pass you in the kitchen as I’m heading to another room in the house, I am the one who is likely to pass close by so I can put my hand on your back or shoulder as I move close by you.

And when things get difficult in life or even in the relationship, I am the kind of person who would rather snuggle and support than almost anything else. It’s not avoidance. The tasks and trials will all be met, but let’s pause for a minute and gather our collective resources, be together with the event, and then move from that place of closeness to solving whatever is going on. My ex-y, I learned, was from a different planet. And while the signs were clearly marked when we were courting, had I known what to look for, we didn’t really hit any major stressful relating issues until well into our third or fourth year of marriage.

So, I did not have an example of her withdrawal into logic and reason. I was not aware of how her stress response was to go into “spreadsheet” mode and try to map out the “plan.” And as these two very different response and manage systems became engaged over and over again, perhaps that’s when and how we began to drift apart. We drifted towards our own individual comfort systems, and were saddened and hurt by the other partner’s inability to bridge the gap for us. And as things escalated we became even more locked into our patterns. I wanted a hug, she wanted the numbers.

I can now see how my need for closeness during stressful moments would trigger her need for logic.

In terms of sexual compatibility, however, the ex-y and I did share a great love of the sensual. She did love oral sex. And as our patterns of lovemaking evolved, it was clear that she was primarily orgasmic via manual or oral stimulation. So we got into it. I had found a partner who was willing to indulge my curiosity and passion for giving her a “blowjob.” So much so that the concept of “she comes first” was a badge of honor with me. Or at least a known competency.

So now, in my evolved patterns and tastes, when I think of having sex, the idea always starts with me diving in head first and not surfacing until “timeout” was requested. THEN, we’d get to me. (grin)

And I guess, I now understand, that my oral orientation is not universal. In fact, many of the women in the classes fell in the take it or leave it category. It was interesting how you could understand a bit more about the person’s makeup by knowing if they were “in to” or not “in to” oral sex.

One of the ways I learned to ask for sex from the ex-y was to suggest that I give her a blowjob. And I was perfectly happy giving her a big “O” and walking away. That rarely happened, but it was fine. I had sensuousness to last me days even without orgasming myself. Usually, it worked better if I offered to give her a massage. But I tried and refined my “ask” many times over, in an attempt to solve the question of why she was beginning to close me out. And the blowjob was one of our codes. But it often referred to me going down on her.

Looking back on everything, I can now see how my need for closeness during stressful moments would trigger her need for logic. My desire to solve things by hugging and kissing and napping was contraindicated in her brain. Her ask for money planning meetings, and mapping out summer schedules was a huge buzz kill for me. I would do it. And perhaps now I am understanding that she would “do it” for me in the same way. Hmmm.

I am not suggesting that my ex-y in some way didn’t enjoy sex, or that she wasn’t sensual. But her availability factor was about 10% of mine. And her passion level, when things got difficult, went into negative numbers pretty quickly. And that’s a shame because things are going to get difficult. Situations and life events are going to happen. Disagreements are going to be a part of living and evolving with someone. That’s exactly how we evolve.

If that person doesn’t do well with accepting or joining in closeness, even when things are difficult, then I am going to be feeling left out in the cold. It’s not abandonment as much as longing to JOIN around an activity or event.

GF 1 had a great phrase that embodied the idea. It was about experiencing something so great or fun that you wanted to go home and “have sex” about it. As if you could lock-in the great experience by joining together in love making.

So maybe the nap is also a form of sensual ecstasy. Or maybe to my ex-y it was a sign of laziness. Often she would need to get sick, before letting herself drop back into relax and take it easy mode. And she often resented my self-care needs of taking a nap on Saturday AND Sunday if I could arrange it. And it wasn’t like I was trying to nap in spite of her. I would try and arrange things so that we could nap together. Who knows, maybe we’d make love, maybe I’d give her a blowjob. Who knows?

She didn’t get more available for play or ecstasy. There was always something else. There was always the next thing.

But she was often too wrapped up in getting everything into a certain order that would make her feel safe. It was often money, or house cleaning, or catching up on her work, that would prevent her from allowing me to give her a blowjob or a massage. And how many times we missed those opportunities are uncountable. Maybe I would have been better served, or she would have been better encountered if I had demanded more naps with her. At some point, after ask number 75, you begin to get fatigued. And I suppose she might have had the same feeling about filling in the projections or modeling our financial future. If I had only participated more.

But my question is this. If I had only participated more in getting the chores done, or making sure there was enough money in the bank accounts, then what? Would she have opened up and become more receptive to sensual advances? Would she have accepted more offers to nap together and receive a blowjob or two?

I tried that. I worked hard to jump into action and pickup the house, get the kids off to friend’s houses, get the dishes clean, be a good earner so we wouldn’t have to worry about money. I did the dutiful husband role and I went through a two-year period where I stepped it up a notch. But it didn’t work. She didn’t get more available for play or ecstasy. There was always something else. There was always the next thing.

And I found myself giving myself blowjobs more often than giving them to her. (frown) And MAYBE I could have been more demanding there too. Maybe I should’ve made the sexual connection more of an issue in couples therapy, rather than letting most of our discussions and negotiations focus on some crisis that always seemed to be at the top of her list.

I don’t think I could’ve changed her, with any of my activities or requests, into being a more happy and whimsical human being. I don’t think that my asking for naps, or blowjobs, or sensuous connection could have gotten more creative and flexible. And no matter how hard I tried, and how many spreadsheets I participated in filling out. No matter how much money was in the back to make US feel secure. She did not willingly relax and let herself go, without a huge effort on both our parts.

I won’t be traveling that path again: trying to change a non-touch love language person, into a touch-oriented person. It does not work. It cannot work. The behaviors can change, but the wiring remains the same.

And there were things in the early stages of dating my ex-y, that I might have seen, had we even had the “love languages” model at that time. But I was head over heels in love with the body and beauty that brought me so much pleasure in those early days, before the stress of being a family, with kids and bills and insurance requirements. Before we experienced stress together things were rather dreamy.

Under stress, however, she became a different person. Maybe I did too. But our two corners of comfort were on different sides of the planet. I wanted holding, she wanted numbers.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

*post was written on April 2013.

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Strengthening Your Core Happiness Becomes More Important After a Breakup

OFF-openheart

The first “girlfriend” I had after divorce asked me early on in our dating experience, “What do you look like when you are happy?” She saw me struggling a bit with depression and sadness around my divorce and she genuinely wanted to know what my joy looked like. Perhaps so she could recognize it if it showed up, or to make sure she would still be in the mix when my happiness kicked off.

We’ve got a lot of programs to help strengthen your core abdominals, and therapy and philosophy to help us lift our hearts out of depression, but we are just learning about happiness. What makes people happy versus miserable. Guess what? It’s INSIDE YOU. It is not the other person. It’s not even your circumstances.

I know this sounds all woo woo, and looks a bit like a bumper sticker, but let me share a moment from an amazing book I’m reading. In this book, a woman has recently been told by her husband that he no longer loves her. It throws her world into a tailspin, BUT… She decides, has decided before it happens, NOT to let other’s or circumstances dictate her inner joy. She has just come back from a vacation retracing her college year abroad in Italy, where this moment happened for her. (She traveled with her daughter. Her husband and son stayed back in Montana.)

I was lying in bed that last day in Florence, looking at my daughter sleeping with her mouth open, listening to a dog bark on a balcony above the streets of Florence–the Vespas whizzing by, the polite exchanges of Buongiorno, the smell of coffee, and yes, exhaust, and something very old.

But I didn’t feel the panic I’d thought I would, knowing I had to leave all of it behind. The desperate need to go out in that world beyond the thick wooden shutters and our own tiny balcony just one more time alone–to feel twenty and charged. The frenzy to contact my old footprints, in a state of ravenous adventure. I didn’t need to be anywhere other than in my bed watching my daughter sleep.

In not quite a twenty-year-old’s voice, but not quite a forty-year-old’s either, I hear, quiet and with morning breath, It’s all here. It always was. — Laura Munson

Wow. For me, what that meant, that epiphany she had, was letting go of the need to jump up and accomplish, or jump up and adventure ahead into the world of the exciting, and instead to merely BE PRESENT. BE AWARE OF THE JOY. LISTEN. BREATHE.

I know it sounds kind of simple and zen, but the reality is quite simple. And I too have been studying how to get there, to achieve inner peace, even under extenuating and challenging circumstances. And while I am often NOT there, on occasion, when I can take the time to notice the simple joy of things, I CAN BE HAPPY. And it’s not about anyone else. Or the money in my bank account, or if my king-size bed is filled with two cats and a dog rather than a lover. MY INNER PEACE comes from stopping the rush to be/do/accomplish.

When you have kids, one of the most magical experiences is watching them sleep. There, just out of reach is your flesh and blood set off on a new mystical trajectory. And if things seemed hard or frightening, you could return to that quiet, that calm of their secure and loved slumber, and imagine the same nurturing for yourself. By loving them deeply, you learn to love yourself.

I want to give the ex this book. But why? Do I hope to fix her? To help her? Do I still wish her happiness? Or do I want to show her what an actualized woman did in the face of her husband’s struggles?

I won’t. I’ve learned that extending energy to others, when it has not been invited, is simply a waste of energy. I gave her a CD a year ago. (Dawes – Nothing Is Wrong) I had hoped to speak to her through some of the words of this music. Three weeks later, the CD was right where she had put it on the kitchen counter. I took it back. I could use it in my car.

She was not interested in hearing or feeling into what happened between us. What failed. She’s moved on, a bit too quickly, in my opinion, but that’s her struggle and her happiness that I can no longer take any part in.

The song, Time Spent In Los Angeles, talks about seeing “that special kind of sadness, that tragic set of charms.” And the moment that I was trying to capture and share was something about when I left my rock star dreams (during a pop-rock festival in Los Angeles) behind to become a more realistic husband.

But in my CORE HAPPINESS, I am playing music. And the man she met was fully actualized. I was playing in a band, playing live, and writing music. That’s the man she fell in love with. And then something changed. Kids. Money. Work. 9-11. But it changed in her, not in me.

I remained, remain, a musician and happy artist. And I am MOST happy when I’m creating music and poetry. Maybe music and poetry can bring on happiness, I don’t know. But I have not lost my joy at playing and writing, even if it’s for my kids and me alone.

And I won’t pass judgment on her at this point. Her core happiness is up to her to discover. And maybe it’s found with another relationship. Maybe there’s someone out there who “always” completes us. But I don’t think that’s where it’s found.

My joy is up to me. My core happiness comes from my own commitment to dig into it. And more importantly to give up on the outcome of the product and simply enjoy the process. Sure, I’d like everyone to enjoy one of my songs, someday. But the joy I experience at catching a moment just right (in song, poem, or even her in this confession) is mine alone. No amount of praise, fame, or money, or lack of those things can affect my inner satisfaction.

This is not an easy place to find in yourself. And from time to time we lose sight of what makes us most happy. But we must keep listening. We must keep stopping in the moment, when the happiness is strongest, and firming it in. Affirming, as Laura Munson did in Italy.

  • THIS RIGHT HERE.
  • THIS IS MY JOY.
  • BREATHE.
  • AND REMEMBER THIS, no matter what.
  • REMEMBER YOUR INNER JOY IS YOURS ALONE.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

*this post was written on July, 2013.

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The Yoga Girl Next Door; What Is An Erotic Ideal, And What Is Real?

What would you talk about with a yoga girl?

What would you talk about with a yoga girl?

 

There I was leaning into her new red Prius, talking about PR and yoga and her plans. It was as if I had put my head into a spaceship and was looking at some Penthouse forum photo of “the yoga girl next door.” But there was nothing going on. She was a next-door neighbor, and I was asking her about her work and her Prius.

I’m guessing she’s in the 20-years-younger range. Blonde. Stunning body in black tights. Raybans. Biggest smile you’ve ever seen. And what would I have done with her if she had been asking about coming over later? (She was not.)

I’ve been dating.

As I walked the long distance back to my car after the kiss, I was erect as a bar of iron, and wondering how — in my fkd up state — someone else could be attracted to me.

This is the first “relationship” I’ve been in since my divorce. The other two were both in the neighborhood of one week, and that’s not a relationship, that’s a fly-by. The first one was the woman who slept with pit bulls. The second one had the prettiest smile you have ever seen, but she lived 80 miles away.

So I wouldn’t say I’m experienced. In fact, I would say I’m a newbie in the department of dating. And dating as an adult who’s about to cross into my 50’s, I have to say, things are very different than when I was last on the market. I’m different. The women are different. I have two kids and a schedule that imposes some initial absence regardless of how fast I want to go in terms of hanging out together.

Sure, I’ve got an OK Cupid profile. (Tried Match and eHarmony.) But I haven’t been working it. And from the depths of my aloneness, I wasn’t in any mood to be imagining or looking for companionship. In fact, I was flat out deluded about how far fked up I was.

Enter attractive 54 year-old woman on OKC that says, “Hey, why didn’t you respond to my last email?”

If warning bells are going off it’s only because she is into ME too much. Or more than I have ever experienced. She was telling me I was “much more attractive” than my profile over our first drink together. And in the parking lot, as I walked her to her new convertible Mini, she held up before opening the car and half-kissed me. We still joke about who kissed who, but she HAD been dating a lot. And she was prone to “trying out the kiss” in the parking lot, even on the first date. I had not kissed any of my “dates.” You tell me…

And as I walked the long distance back to my car after the kiss, I was erect as a bar of iron, and wondering how — in my fkd up state — someone else could be attracted to me. Was that in itself a huge red flag?

OR… Did she see something in me that was solid and cute and funny, regardless of how I was feeling?

Three days later, we were kissing on my couch as a prelude to the trip upstairs, where she said as she was unbuttoning my pants, “You don’t know how long it’s been!”

Two months later… Well, I’ve driven the Mini quite a bit.

Am I looking for some erotic ideal that is more about masturbatory fantasy and trophy wives that parade around the nearby HEB in their yoga pants.

But there is something that I am not feeling, that I think I should. As we continue and she confirms repeatedly how much I fit her picture of a prime fit, I am not sure. I did not have the euphoria associated with passion. I don’t crave her. Her beautiful blue eyes and easy laugh are wonderful, but for some animal reason, I would not pick her out at a party as someone I wanted to get to know. She is attractive. She is a bit older than any of my previous relationships. She is completely crazy about me.

Am I out of my element? Am I looking for some erotic ideal that is more about masturbatory fantasy and trophy wives that parade around the nearby HEB in their yoga pants? (Don’t they have to work? Um… No, they don’t.)

So I have a woman who craves sex and time with me. She does not play games. She has told me from the beginning how delicious she thinks I am. She even told me, after a lengthy discussion about my previous relationship history, that she wanted to learn how to give me the best blow job ever. (WHAT?)

The yoga girl next door represents a college-age fantasy. I am not of college-age. She is thin, beautiful, and I would assume, somewhat spiritual, being a yoga instructor and all. But she and I have nothing in common. Would I find things about her that fascinate me? Would she cook me a meal, come over to my house, and leave me with leftovers? (like a tame Penthouse Forum post)

My experience, thus far in my life, says no. My experience, thus far in my life has never had someone so crazy about me. I feel almost guilty about not being able to return the level of excitement about her. I am trying. I am stretching. I am exploring everything with her, to see if the animal hotness grows. I mean, the truth is, I was depressed beyond measure. And NOTHING sounded good. I didn’t crave anything, not even ice cream. So how could I expect my senses to crave this available woman?

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

*This post was written on Nov 2012.

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The Crushing Impact of Emotional Infidelity on My Marriage

OFF-lunching

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.

The emotional infidelity is probably what signaled the demise of my marriage, but the behavior was evident at the beginning of the relationship.

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.

She never quite copped to the fact that it was an emotional infidelity. Or that her actions were an obvious exit from the relationship.

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 might have made a different decision at that point had I been given the truth.

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.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

*this post was written in 2014

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winter berry (a poem)

winter berry (a poem)

winter berry (a poem)

cold races in
whispers your absence
bed empty and disheveled
pillow tightly held
a wet winter day
beckoning to me
retreat
relapse
rest
release

12-29-21


The Evolving Single Dad: Failure to Hopefulness Again

OFF-dadfeet-gmp

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 forever. 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.

When you’re flat on your back in depression and failure, what you learn is how to get back up.

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. 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 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 recommitting to tennis and fitness. I’m starting to sing songs again.

I have been able to not only show them, but instill in them this tendency towards optimism and hope.

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 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 with 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.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

*post was written in 2014

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What Are the Big Relationship Questions After Divorce?

dating a single dad

dating a single dad

What’s sex about?

How do I make a living in this world?

Are intimate relationships worth it?

Lena Dunham is the 25 yo powerhouse who’s show, GIRLS is a hit on HBO. Are she and her cast voicing millennial ennui of our time? The show tries to be shocking. Its stars are quirky, damaged, and beautiful in many different facets. At least we’ve graduated beyond the vapid (shoes, sex, power, self-obsession) view of Sex and the City. And we’ve come a long way from Carrie Bradshaw to the lead in GIRLS played by Ms. Dunham.

So sex is a loaded gun.  We’re all carrying it around in our pocket.

And the questions, I now realize are the same ones I am asking myself. The questions that divorce and recovery have pressed firmly in my face as said, “Get your shit together, or don’t.”

And we know what not getting our shit together looks like. It looks nothing like writing and staring in your own TV series.

So the voice of this younger generation… The same questions. No wonder it’s doing great. Well done, Ms. Dunham and Co. Now let’s see these three biggie questions are pretty important.

What’s sex about?

Is it possible we (I am) are still trying to answer this question? In fact, as Thomas Moore would lead us to believe, the sex in our lives is one of the last un-illuminated mysteries of our lives. It’s still the primary place that can generate elation, ecstasy, horror, passion, obsession. Not all good, not all bad, but mysterious, yes. And taken one step further, Mr. Moore suggests that there is a spiritual component to sex, even if we don’t want to look at it. God is there, in the mystery. God is there in beauty and unexplained fantasies. Not all good. And not all bad.

So sex is a loaded gun. (pun sort of intended) We’re all carrying it around in our pocket. Sometimes we have concealed permits and we keep our deadly weapons hidden. Other times, sometimes with shocking results, we wear our weapons on our sleeve. I think of the 50+ woman in the local grocery store in her yoga pants and perfect hair and perfect teeth. I’m guessing her car is quite new and clean as well. It takes money to be dressed like that, to look like that, mid-day on a work day. For most of us, yoga, midday on a Tuesday is not an option.

If I’m clear and in-tune with my inner dialogue and self-directed goals, it’s easier to enter a relationship and stay true to what’s important to you and YOUR goals.

There she is. A loaded weapon. Sharing every good piece of herself that she can. She may or may not have been to yoga, just now, but she’s looking like she just stepped out of the Yoga Journal, or some “special issue” of Playboy, “The Yogini Babes of the West Coast.”

I don’t think she’s putting out “come hither” vibes. But she is putting out the best that she’s got in a very sexual way. And all the other loaded weapons in the store, men and women, are taking notice. And that gives her some additional lift. Her brightly colored tennis shoes springing just a tad more as she heads for gluten-free.

So *what* is SEX all about?

Hell if I know.

Today I have a few touch points. But of course, tomorrow they will be different.

  1. Sex is essential. In fact is on the base level of Mazlow’s hierarchy of needs. It’s connected with survival. Instincts. Primal, animal, procreative sex. When you don’t have it, you either NOTICE or you don’t. We’re all animals with different wiring.
  2. Sex is fun.
  3. Sex can be messy. (Complications, miscommunications, obsessions, loss, lack of…)
  4. Sex… well it’s somewhere between Miranda in Sex in the City and XXX in Girls. Where you fall on the spectrum, has more to do with your family of origin and how you feel about the loaded weapon you are packing.

How do I make a living in this world?

I guess until you hit the ball out of the stadium, or inherit the unlimited wealth, making a living is going to form a large part of your existence. And your relationship to this task is critical to your self-worth, self-expression, and even your ability to thrive. And the rules and conditions change all the time. You think you have it figured out, and you get laid off. You imagine a big project is coming, and someone dies leaving the signed contract in limbo. There is always change in the world of work.  Learning to take the “change” with balance and integrity, forms a good portion of how you walk in your life. There is nothing abstract about paying bills. And there is nothing casual about missing mortgage payments.

Are intimate relationships worth it?

We deserve to burn brightly. We crave that other flame that will bring additional heat and passion and beauty to our lives.

I think so. But I also know the “relationship” to myself comes before my ability to relate to another person.

“To find someone to love, you’ve got to be someone you love.” — nada surf, concrete bed

When I don’t have my own shit together, so to speak, it gets messy pretty quick. However, if I’m clear and in-tune with my inner dialogue and self-directed goals, it’s easier to enter a relationship (whatever the form: lover, inspiration, ex-wife) and stay true to what’s important to you and YOUR goals.

If you don’t have a clear link with your plans, if you don’t have a PLAN, you are likely to be misdirected by relationships.

There are three kinds of relationships that are most important in my life.

  1. Relationship to self and god. (*my* spiritual program and self-care regimen)
  2. Relationship to my children. (a life-long lesson in humility and blessings)
  3. Relationship to another person.

In my failing marriage, my therapist said to me,”It seems like she’s cut her flame off from you. She is protecting her flame for some reason.”

The metaphor worked for me.

“You should probably let her go. You deserve someone who can stand unshielded with you. Next to your flame. Someone who can burn brightly WITH and BESIDE you.”

Yes. We deserve to burn brightly. We crave that other flame that will bring additional heat and passion and beauty to our lives.

However, without our own flame, we are more likely to be looking for a light. That’s the wrong way to enter into a relationship.

So there you have it. Are relationships where it’s at? YES. And there are THREE of them. We have 100% responsibility for the first one. Relationship to self and god. (Please put whatever *concept* for god in there that fits with your belief.)

We have a lot of control over the initial trust and love of the second one: Relationship to my children. At some point, they will fly under their own power, but at this critical juncture, they need all the guidance and inspiration they can handle.

And on the final one: Relationship to another person. The loaded gun is in our hands. Either we have a clear understanding of our goals and purpose in holding it or we don’t. Either way, the gun is still in our hands. And the gun is always loaded.

Sincerely,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
Facebook  | Instagram | Pinterest |  @theoffparent

*this post was written in 2019

As a certified life coach, I’ve been helping men and women find fulfilling relationships. If you’d like to chat for 30-minutes about your dating/relationship challenges, I always give the first 30-session away for free. LEARN ABOUT COACHING WITH JOHN. There are no obligations to continue. But I get excited every time I talk to someone new. I can offer new perspectives and experiences from my post-divorce dating journey. Most of all, I can offer hope.

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open window (a poem)

the open window

the open window

there was a moment
as she turned away
breeze was billowing
with an afternoon coolness
the bedsheets felt rough
our attempt missed
i returned to the window
looking down
at the frigid mediterranean sea
crashing on the rocks below
all night
the window called us
to swim
or jump
or leave
just get up
get out of this horror
that should’ve been a honeymoon
but was something else
a dying gasp
and non-refundable tickets
to some paradise
we had spoken of many times
while i was still hopeful

12-14-21


imagine an ending (a poem)

more dead roses

more dead roses

flying home
november again
towards myself
limitless
unbound
ready for more
skipping over the painful bits
with abandon
and vigor
this is not the time
for regrets
or fear
or compromise
today
this year
i claim my independence
and self-care
self-love
selfishness
it is only on lonely nights
that i compose
love songs
heartbroken poems
and aspirational lists
of my *next* partner

it always ends like this
alone
logging into bumble
like a boss
opening new horizons
new opportunities
for more
for less
for smashing good sex
and less than joyful
collisions
my degree is in romance
not chemistry
i throw caution to the wind
for a pretty face
a smile that ignites
nightlights in my mind
and flutters in my belly
“she is the one”
i like to write
“she might be the one”
i write after a few months
“she’s got issues”
i muse
trying to repair the landing gear
mid-flight
adjusting the airspeed
and frictional drag
as we feel the tips of the trees
frozen and fragile
from the winter freeze
the power outage
that puts a point on everything
we’re lacking
that’s broken
in our energy grid
in our cooperative contracts
spoken and hidden
i write what i will miss
i write about being alone again
i write
more than i cry
about the loss
of one more missed embrace
moon shot at happiness
more dead roses
and a lifelong romance
imagined and constructed
and negotiated
until the path forward
became overgrown with brambles
and dangerous snares
set out for predators past
and triggered
at odd times
without rhymes
without reasonable doubt
merely set off
severing limbs
setting off alarms
breaking down lines of communication
until an exit
is the natural
result
and this poem
the obvious
motion
of my crushed
optimism

11-28-21


ready to be away (a poem)

coffee at the plaza 2021

coffee at the plaza 2021

what are we all trying to escape
this pain
boredom
regrets
sadness
loneliness
loss
why are we always looking for a way out
rather than in?

11-27-21


rainy in ny (a poem)

rainy in ny (a poem)

rainy in ny (a poem)

she wasn’t here anymore
as the sky loomed heavy
and low
cold wind buffeting around the corners
of the financial district
just blocks from the national disaster
and shame
of thousands of errors
since then
pushing into the November morning
for coffee and
something to make me feel better
to fill my empty pockets
and moments
with a smile
or kiss
even the touch of a finger
against my leg
but there is no way home
from here
there is no chance of return
to love and light
dreams of aspirational
connections
lovers past
pass by in taxis and empty buildings
i can feel them
but cannot see
beyond my own reflection
and these poor words
reaching to catch
meaning
where there is only
rain
and
an absence

11-26-21

++

 


never saw that coming (a poem)

ufo girl

ufo girl

she landed the ufo
wrecked the entire backyard
left after she had devoured me
i am texting this
from within her purple stomach
how did you know she was a she?
you ask
the sex was amazing
still…?
it was pretty hetero
how is that?
hmmm…
right!

11-19-21


morning, back to bed (a poem)

back to bed

back to bed

if the coffee tastes
as bad as i feel
maybe it is more rest
or better dreams
that i need

today

11-19-21