Fatherhood Wide Open – 10 Questions for John McElhenney

Screen Shot 2014-10-11 at 2.40.52 PMListen to the Fatherhood Wide Open Interview Here

These questions give some insight into where this “whole” idea came from and how I got here.

1. One big idea
The Whole Parent idea was formed when I realized I was going to have to grow back into a whole parent. The things that my former partner did, during a vacation to the beach, for example, are things that I was going to have to put back in my parenting, my WHOLE parenting package.

2. How can men stay positive during divorce?
It’s critical to put your kids needs ahead of your own. In everything. 100% of the time, think of your kids before yourself or you anger/sadness around the divorce. You, as an adult, will heal. The kids do not have the same choices. Make every choice a positive one.

3. The biggest surprise in your four years of divorce?
How much joy has come back into my life. While I am still single at this moment, I have learned that for the most part I wake up happy, and go to be happy. That’s the part of my personality I am showing and giving to my kids.

4. Collaborative parenting – how do you incorporate it into your daily life?
You need to be flexible and friendly with your ex. There is no way around it. On certain days you are going to need their support. And when you can do the favor for them, it comes in handy to have that mutually agreed upon goal. Kids first. The co-parenting will go on for the rest of our kids lives. We never get truly divorced when we have kids. But we are no longer married, we are co-parents.

5. How should we best go about forgiving an ex-spouse. Does infidelity change the approach?
Realize that the breakdown of the marriage was the responsibility of both partners. While I don’t have experience with sexual infidelity, even the breakdown there is a result of a failure on both partners. Forgiveness of your ex is the first step on the path to forgiving yourself for the failure too. You owe it to yourself to let go and get on with the next part of your life.

6. How should single dads handle dating again? Do have any ground rules?
Kids should be left out of the dating mix for a while. When our kids were younger, our divorce decreed had a six month rule. I still think it’s a good one. No introductions of boyfriends and girlfriends until they have been in a relationship for six months. It saves potential confusion. I think it would be much more important for younger kids. Today at 11 and 13, my kids want me to have a new relationship.

7. How should your kids be brought into a new relationship?
I don’t have any experience at this yet, but I do believe that six months is a good bench mark for a relationship. My two relationships have ended at three and four months. So I haven’t had the opportunity to introduce them to my kids, except informally, for a random lunch. But she wasn’t my “girlfriend.”

8. How do we promote healthy relationships for our kids in the face of our marital failure?
In spite of our best efforts, bad things happen. Relationships don’t always work out. But we stay honest, and positive and we move on with our lives. As they have seen their mother and me get divorced they have never heard us disparaging about the other. We’re in this together as parents. And we can show our kids that the respect and friendship goes on even when the marriage does not.

9. Should parents try to stick it out in a bad marriage?
When your kids are young the divorce is an all-consuming nightmare. I am not sure how to answer that question. When we divorced my kids were in 3rd and 5th grade. It was hard. I am glad we gave it our best shot, and I would’ve stayed married for them. But I was unhappy. I am happier now, even single. But I am glad I am no longer in an emotionally frozen relationship. I need more from my love life, and I am hopeful about finding it again.

10. Will you marry again? What one thing would you change?
I am not sure if marriage is my ultimate goal. But if I did, if the woman was really interested in it as well, I would want to keep the communication about sex and touch out in the open. With books like The 5 Love Languages, we know a lot more about what makes people feel loved. I’m hoping to find another “touch” person. And if I do, I am confident that we will both put constant contact as a high priority in our lives.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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