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

Anger is Energy – If You Don’t Thrash

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

If I can just breathe and not thrash.


The Off Parent


5 Responses

  1. John, I read your posts often with delight and sometimes even a chuckle. You’re a good writer. But this time your writing was different. It was spoken from the heart. That takes courage. How timely. Don’t change. Stay sweet. Savor every single moment with your children. Make wonderful memories. Show them what happiness is. Time goes so fast. That I know. They learn from what they see. Their love is unconditional. Don’t taint it with bitterness. They see how we treat eachother. The love. The hate. How did it get so bad…How did it fall apart. So sad. In the end, the children pay the price. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

    People ask me when I got divorced. My answer is…well it depends on what you mean by divorced…because my ex-x keeps coming back for more. Monday, I made the mistake of answering the door. The man said, “are you {my name here}, I reply “yes”. He says, “you’ve been served”. And I thought he was gonna sell me magazines. Gotcha. How nice.

    So today I met with a lawyer to prepare a response. Again. But why couldn’t my ex-x and I just talk this through and decide what’s best for our child. Nope. Not this time. Not any time. He wants a fight. I just want to get one with my life and put this chapter behind me. What do you expect from a man that spends his time highlighting sections of the decree waiting for slightest opp to file a motion. It’s not a life manual dude!

    I not defeated. I’m not bitter. I still have hope. I will get through this. Just breathe. It can only get better 🙂

    April 5, 2012 at 9:40 am

    • Sad,

      Thanks so much for reaching out and sharing YOUR experience. I’m glad you are not defeated. We will get through this. And breathe. Thrashing doesn’t do you or your kids any good. And your ex-x won’t get any pleasure from your calm breathing. That’s the ticket. Let THEM thrash. And WE remain calm.

      Thank You Again, for sharing,


      April 5, 2012 at 10:14 am

  2. Tiptoe Jenkins

    On the flip side, as an ex-wife who chose divorce, sometimes I thrash. More often than not, I’m in open water in the ocean. I’m a strong swimmer, but the current has surprised me and not let up. I flail my arms as waves splash my face. It may, at first glance, appear that I am thrashing. Actually, it is sink or swim. No help is coming; it is up to me. The shore is far on the horizon. I am hyper-focused on every muscular movement I can use to tread water. If I go under, all is lost. Beneath the surface, my legs tread water more aggressively. I don’t feel like I’m thrashing. I am trying to keep my chin above the waves for air and get to shore for safety. Then I can have a moment to breathe. It may look like I’m thrashing because it’s harder than ever, and it’s easy to pick the obvious metaphor, but sometimes one simply has to survive first.

    By all means, breathe if you are able to calm the painful, confusing thrashing. If you can’t breathe at all, tread water as focused as you can, and breathe in a new life as soon as you get to shore.


    April 5, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    • Tiptoe,

      I hear your pain. I am sorry you must thrash/tred to survive. Neither are much fun. But the transformation is happening, even if you can’t feel it. You are getting stronger, more self-sufficient. The determination you show to your kids will give them renewed strength when they are working through their trials and tribulations.

      Keep your eye on the shore. And remember there is always the deadman float method of survival as well.

      April 5, 2012 at 11:01 pm

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